Hi everyone! Congratulations on making it to Wednesday alive.
Today I'm going to review The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (which I received as an eARC via NetGalley - thanks NetGalley!) a book which held me utterly spellbound on Monday, and which I still can't stop thinking about now.
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.
I honestly don't know what to say about this book. It's not enough to say that I loved it. That I admired it. That I swallowed it in one gulp and that my heart is still filled by it. Or even that, despite the book's carefully crafted and well-resolved story arc, I'd sell a kidney to get hold of the next book in the trilogy.
As a writer I love and admire many books, and crave their sequels.
But I don't often read books that I wish, with my whole soul, I had written myself.
That's a odd statement to make, I know. Of course whenever I like a book I kind of wish that I could have written it. But most of the time know I never could. I don't have the fiendish plotting gift needed to create a trilogy like The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, or the epic vision to come up with a story like Veronica Roth's Divergent, or the skill required to put together a double-crossing Baroque family dynamic like the one in The Demon Trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan. My brain simply doesn't work the way those author's brains work. Not only could I never have written their books the way they did, I know that a story like the stories they have told would never have occurred to me to be written in the first place.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns is different. It's a high fantasy which deals with almost every one of my all-time favourite themes to write about. It tackles religion and the dividing and uniting aspects of religion. It deals with the physical and mental transformation of the protagonist. It takes on tragic, forbidden love, friendship, resistence against overwhelming odds and female power. It is written in a voice which is the perfect combination of lyricism and intense sensory description. Its characters - from the main players to the most minor spear-carriers - are beautifully nuanced, multifaceted and complex in just the way I always strive to achieve. The story follows the path which I would have chosen myself, and yet it is utterly unpredictable.
In short, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the book I want to write when I grow up.
Sometimes I regret that I got published at such a relatively young age. I mean, I don't regret being a published author, and I'm proud of all my books, imperfect as they are. But I wonder - if I'd waited a few years, trunked a few more stories - maybe my first book could have been like this? Because if you're going to blast your way onto the market with a high fantasy, THIS is the way to do it.
Let me offer a few more reasons why you should go out and get this yourselves the moment it hits the shops.
Firstly, if you want to see a heroine who is (painfully, excruciatingly) realistic in her flaws and self-doubts, and who gradually matures and hardens into an extraordinary woman of courage, power and wisdom (and also the sort of badass who pretends to beg at a traitor's feet so that she can steal the knives out of his boots and then threaten to cut his throat with them) then you will definitely enjoy this book.
If you love far-flung, unpredictable plots which drag the characters through every possible physical and mental test and then come full-circle to allow them to use all they have learned, you will like this book.
If you hate insta-love and you want meaningful relationships (not just romantic ones!) which develop slowly out of respect and knowledge, this book is for you.
If you love richly textured non-standard fantasy settings which are filled with people of all ethnic backgrounds, and dark-skinned heroes and heroines who take leading roles, you want this book.
If you want a book that carefully examines the idea of religious faith and 'God's Will' and which eventually demonstrates that all humans, whether by virtue or weakness, are part of God's plan, then this book will thrill you.
Finally, if you want a book that will make you gasp, and cry, and curl up into a little ball of shattered emotions, a book that will wreck you and then put you back together again with bittersweet grace, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is your book.
I've recommended books to you guys before, books that I loved and admired. But this book? This book I am not recommending. I am *ordering* you to go get it. You need it. You want it. You must have it. Go on. Pre-order it now.