Thursday, November 3, 2011
The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Greenwillow Books, 2011
Source: Received an ARC from Amazon's Vine program in exchange for an honest review.
Garnering comparisons to Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce as well as rave reviews throughout the blogosphere, I was very excited to dive into this book as I hoped for a fast read in an atmospheric world with an outstanding main character.
Unfortunately the beginning was very slow with a main character who is very convinced of her unremarkable personality and who left me convinced of same. Still she is a princess with a gem in her belly button, having been chosen for a mysterious duty, as have others in previous centuries according to an ancient prophecy. The jewel marks her as the hope for many but also puts her in danger as she learns when she embarks on a new life, secretly married to a king of a neighboring country.
When Elisa arrives, she is comfortably ensconced but unfulfilled as some scheme against her, openly and secretly. After a frightening event, she is pushed far beyond her limits and begins to dig deep into her inner resources to discover great strength and to save her people.
Actually once that event occurred, the book became a lot more interesting to me because that's when Elisa finally starts doing stuff. I understand the need for setup and how those earlier scenes paid off later in the book. But Elisa was so passive and boring at the beginning. I guess it's hard for me to care when a character is so convinced of her worthlessness; I tend to start to agree. But thankfully she does start to kick butt, using her physical abilities, her brain, and her kind heart to help.
At the beginning the other characters interested me more but as Elisa, rightfully, overshadowed them, I didn't become any less interested in them. I became invested in most of them, shocked at some of their actions, and grieved by some of their goodbyes.
The other really fascinating element of this book is the focus on religion. Elisa comes from a very conservative, rigid variation while she marries a king whose country is a bit more liberal in their interpretations of texts for the same religion. Then there are their opponents who are considered barbaric but also seem to worship in a similar fashion. I loved the incorporation of religion and the importance of faith for Elisa and the other characters. I am also fascinated by interpretations and translations of the Bible so seeing some of the characters here engage in the same work with their sacred texts was delightful and really helped distinguish this book from some other fantasy.
Overall: A slow beginning that does pay off with lovely prose and exciting action. Not a cliffhanger but still leaves you eager for further adventures.