Elisa is a sixteen-year-old princess and the Chosen One. She was chosen on the day of her christening as the bearer of a Godstone, something that happens only once in a hundred years. Despite this, she’s never been comfortable in her own skin–her older sister is the heir and the perfect one. Elisa drowns her inadequacies in food. When she is married to the weak-willed king of a neighbor country as a political alliance, she doesn’t see this as an improvement upon her situation in any way. In fact, Alejandro doesn’t even tell his kingdom that they are already married!
It takes getting kidnapped, trekking across an unforgiving desert and learning about some political and military realities for Elisa to really come into her own. She has always been smart and well read, but in the desert with refugees and coming up against the enemy armies, she is able to use her intelligence to benefit herself, her new kingdom and her friends.
I’m often a little uncomfortable with religion in the books I read, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because these are often books that use Christianity to send girls messages I don’t agree with. (Sex is terrible! being the main one.) However, in this book, faith and religion are an essential part of Elisa’s character and inspire her to move beyond her own fear and uncertainty to the benefit of whole kingdoms.
Joya d’Arenas (I returned the book already so apologies for any names I get wrong) is sort of like Spain, but more deserty, and the religion there is sort of like Christianity, but not really. Elisa’s faith is grounded in experience and scholarship and I do like that her religion is not one that marginalizes women in any way. Her sister is poised to take the throne once her father dies, and there is another woman on the Quorum of Five (the main advisory council, five being the divine number).
In any case, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a very strong debut, and I’m excited to see more from Carson. Book 2, The Crown of Embers, is due next fall and that’s clearly way too long to wait.