by Rae Carson
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Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.
All in all incredibly underwhelming and somewhat both idiotic and infuriating. Trust me, I would love to tell you that my distaste only revolves around personal matters – as a strong case of “it’s not the book but me”, let’s say – but in all honesty, I really don’t think that and the problems I had with The Girl of Fire and Thorns were way too numerous to be left ignored.
“You must not lose faith, child. No matter what. Do not doubt God or his choosing of you. He knows infinitely more than we can imagine.”
The Girl of Fire and Thorns can be considered as fast-paced, if you don’t mind following characters you don’t care about ← I do mind. You know what I also mind? When quantity prevails over quality. Hé, sure, I cannot deny how action-packed the story is but I’d rather read about few in-depth plot points than a succession of superficial twists, because you know what? Wandering around (even in an active fashion) is plain boring all the same. Had the characters stand still for more than 5 pages, perhaps I would have been able to start feeling something. Sadly I didn’t.
Many of my friends loved this book, and because I am naturally trustful (alright, maybe not), I kept reading when I wanted to DNF the hell out of it around 40%. Did it pay off? Huh, not really. Although the plot does pick up in the last 30%, the way events take place stays way too convenient and simple for my liking.
Not to mention that the writing was terrible, and by that I don’t mean grammatical mistakes (there are none that I noticed) – No, I mean that everything was told to me and never ever shown.
True story : My favorite character is a 5 years-old boy whose appearance doesn’t last more than 5 pages. Huh-oh, I may have a problem here. Truth be told, none of these characters were rage-inducing. Nah. They were too busy wandering around, bland and flat as fuck.
First of all, I’m not sure how Elisa avoided to be called on her Mary Sue status. Is it because she’s fat and YA books tend to consider overweight as a synonym of ugly? The girl is God chosen, for crying out loud. Oh, she tells us that she’s useless, but then she tells us so many things, I LOST COUNT. Really, though? She gives war advices that get everyone happy, does wonders with children – she even spreads martyr vibes at some point (but on that aspect she improves, woot!).
I didn’t hate Elisa, because I didn’t care enough to do so, but it doesn’t mean that I liked the way her characterization was handled.
In my opinion, she conveys a disturbing and infuriating portray of overweight. Look, at first I was really happy to finally see a YA heroine who isn’t strikingly beautiful, skinny, and white. So much wasted potential unfortunately. A book isn’t body positive when the MC’s growth is linked to her lost of weight and when fatness is only seen in a negative light (God forbid that a fat girl be beautiful – yes, there is a pun in there).
You gotta love pig metaphors, really.
“… as if I am a juicy pig roast garnished with pepper sauce”
Seriously. What’s up with that? Did I miss a memo? Is it considered as normal and healthy that an overweight MC – one of the only ones I met in YA – constantly self-depreciates herself? Is repeating all over again that she isn’t worthy and beautiful because she’s not thin serves some purpose I somehow didn’t grasp?
Does she ever realize that her weight – past and present – doesn’t begin to define who she is? No, and really, how could she, when the plot never lets any room for that? I do realize that self-loathing can be linked to appearances, especially during the teenage years. I just wish that this important issue had been dealt with more complexity and depth, because as it is, I cannot condone it.
Then come the male-leads. Oh my GOSH what is it with these guys?
Who the fuck is Lord Hector? His entire characterization is built around the twisting of his moustache. I KID YOU NOT.
I won’t bother talking about the weak husband View Spoiler »who doesn’t care for telling people they’re married and somehow keeps his mistress (who’s thin and beautiful, of course) « Hide Spoiler. [ who doesn’t care for telling people they’re married and somehow keeps his mistress (who’s thin and beautiful, of course). (hide spoiler)] Oh, oops, I just did.
Do not fear, though! Just wait and meet Humberto, the smiling, puppy-like desert man who never convinced me enough to care.
THESE ARE NOT PEOPLE.
To be fair, I did enjoy Cosmé and Ximena when they were present, but I still feel as if Rae Carson only scratched the surface of their personalities, unfortunately.
And do not get me started about these painted-faced enemies we know nothing about. As a rule, all the villains are plain EVIL, without any nuances. BO-RING.
More generally, I found two ways of dividing the whole set of characters :
Way #1 : The Fat vs. The Beautiful
Way #2 : Those who like Elisa vs. Those who don’t like Elisa
This is the extend of characterization as far as I’m concerned, and I have yet to see some dynamics in there (at this point, I’m not even asking for chemistry).
Again, a fail. Let’s talk about the religious stuff, okay? I saw many readers stating that it wasn’t Christian at all (but then why not name the god something else, and why make it seem like a Bible parable, and why add some martyr vibes, I wonder), and I’m ready to acknowledge the fact that I have literally no patience for praying and sentences like “god knows all” in my books. Granted, it irks me something fierce in Fantasy, but let’s not take my personal taste into account, okay?
Let’s forget that I had to suffer from entire paragraphs like this :
“My soul glorifies God; let rejoice in my Savior
For he has been mindful of his humble servant
Blessed am I among generations
For he lifted me from the dying world
Yea, with his righteous right hand he lifted me
He has redeemed his people, given them new life abundant
My soul glorifies God; let it rejoice in my Savior.”
(for full disclosure, I have to point that they’re in church at this moment, and this is not the MC talking, but a priest)
Let’s also not mention the constant praying, okay? It still bothers me very much. Why, you ask? Because it may be one of the LAZIEST magical system I’ve ever read about. What the fuck is this shit, really? So she prays and the God Gemstone in her belly-button helps her …. Sometimes?
REALLY?! RANDOM MUCH?! I can’t believe how easy and idiotic it makes the plot. No explanation needed – because GOD. Pl-ease. Give me a break.
▶ Sigh. I could go on and on and on, it would remain that I’m in the almost non-existent minority on this one, and sad to be. In all honesty, I know that I can enjoy YA Fantasy, even tropey – I recently read and loved the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. The Girl of Fire and Thorns doesn’t compare anywhere near the still predictable The Demon King. And I’m not even talking about the awesomeness of The Lumatere Chronicles.