I originally encountered The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, the first book in The Fire and Thorns trilogy, on Instagram. The recommendation came from someone whose opinion I trust, so I borrowed the audio from my library to give it a go. Best. Decision. Ever! Luckily my library had The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom, too.
About the Books:
Every hundred years, a bearer is born — a person with a living Godstone in his or her navel and an unknown act of heroism in his or her future. Sixteen-year-old Elisa is such a bearer.
She’s also a coddled, sheltered princess who is more interested in honey coconut scones than politics or destinies and used to living in the shadow of her beautiful and brilliant older sister. Aside from the mysterious stone in her navel, Elisa can’t see anything remarkable about herself at all — and neither, really, can anyone else.
Then her father and sister arrange her secret marriage to a handsome but weak king. From the moment she sets out from the home she’s always known for her new husband’s capital city, her life begins to change in dramatic and irrevocable ways.
And that’s all I’ll say. The rest is best discovered as the story unfolds!
You guys. Holy cow. I adored this trilogy. I will do my best to write a coherent review, but…wow. I’m still buzzing from having finished listening to the last book just a few days ago!
You know those books that you desperately want to tear through, but at the same time you know you should pace yourself and savor them so they last as long as possible? All three installments of the Fire and Thorns trilogy were those kinds of books for me. No weak volumes here. From start to finish, Rae Carson had me hanging on her every word.
The world in which this trilogy is set is fascinating. It has a somewhat medieval flavor, with city strongholds and travel by horse or camel and the like. Its history, though, and its varied peoples and regions, are all its own. Carson builds up a mythology and a religion that so fully suffuse her physical setting that they seem one with it. Everything loops and twines together into a sturdy, airtight container in which the story can occur, and every new revelation of Elisa’s uncovers some new piece of the ever-growing puzzle for us.
Speaking of the story, it’s gripping. There’s no other word for it. Carson channels her creativity through Elisa, the trilogy’s narrator and centerpiece. The author gets her heroine out of bind after bind, always in clever and unexpected (but still believable) ways. There was far more edge-of-my-seat delight than eye-rolling happening on my end throughout. And one particular decision Carson makes in the first book sucks any sense of predictability or sacredness from the story. Everything and everyone is fair game. As a result, you stop trusting that she’ll take the easy path. Every situation could go a number of ways. It’s exhilarating!
The novels’ crowning achievements, in my opinion, though, are their characters. Elisa is everything you could want in a heroine, in part because you see her whole development from sheltered, naive princess to…well…I won’t tell you, so that I don’t ruin the story, but I assure you her journey is incredibly satisfying! She’s surrounded and supported by a diverse and amazingly well differentiated cast. Carson crafts memorable characters with their own lives, histories, preferences, and quirks. Even as the constellations in which they appear shift, each member remains distinct. Dropping into a book each time was like being among familiar faces.
Jennifer Ikeda reads the whole trilogy, and she is perfect. Not only does she fill out Elisa’s voice well, she also has distinct voices for each of the other characters. I could tell who was talking just from the voice she used for an impressive array of characters. She was an absolute pleasure to listen to, and while I’m sure the print version is wonderful as well, I’m happy I chose the audio route.
The Verdict: Amazing
I doubt I have to reiterate how much I loved this book. I have zero complaints. In fact, I wish there were more books in the series for me to read! Kristin Cashore’s Graceling still holds top place on my favorites list, but the Fire and Thorns trilogy is definitely way, way up there. If you enjoy this sort of book, I hope you’ll give it a try! Just make sure you have all three books ready to go, because trust me, when you finish one, you’ll want to pick up the next one right away.
What’s the last book (or series) that left you over-the-moon satisfied, and at the same time, wishing for more?