Originally reviewed on Basia's Bookshelf
I had seen positive things all over Goodreads about this book, and was fortunate enough to be approved for a review copy off Netgalley. When I received the ebook, I immediately settled in and hoped I would enjoy the ride.
Then I met Princess Elisa, the second daughter of the royal family of Orovalle. Faced with a future of no responsiblities, she has been coddled and given whatever she wishes her whole life. Her one claim to fame is the godstone in her stomach, which appears in a person once every century. People of that time believe that the person blessed with the Godstone is destined for greatness. Elisa has no special skills or abilities, has never done anything great, and is grossly overweight. I cringed after the tenth time of her stuffing her face with scones. I made a comment to Barbara while reading the first part about how I think I prefer skinny attractive female leads, even that makes me vain. Reading about Elisa's life was painful, and I wasn't sure if I would ever even like her. Things were not looking good.
On Elisa's sixteenth birthday, her spoiled life changes drastically when she becomes the secret wife to King Alejandro de Vega, ruler of a neighboring kingdom. Alejandro's kingdom is in the middle of war, and he marries Elisa for her godstone, hoping she will bring peace and change to his lands. Upon arriving in her new home, Elisa is faced with political intrigue, a catty mistress intent upon being queen and the desertion of Alejandro, who avoids her because of her looks. Not only is Elisa told to keep her marriage a secret, she must also keep her godstone a secret as well. A maid finds out about the godstone, and Elisa is soon kidnapped and taken on a journey across the desert to a small village on the front lines of the war.
No longer coddled by her nurses, and without access to all the food, Elisa quickly loses the weight and begins to show signs of the princess she was always meant to be. Having extensively studied the art of war, she quickly becomes the rebel gang's general as they fight for their lives. After a few scary adventures in the desert with her new friends, Elisa eventually makes her way back to Alejandro's kingdom, and the enemy has pushed through the desert and is practically on their doorstep. The enemy uses magic - fire throwers - in battle, with which Alejandro's armies can't compete. It's up to Elisa and her godstone to figure out a way to defeat their enemy and save the kingdom.
Before I continue on, I want to mention that this book has definite religious tendencies. The belief is that the godstone came from God, and there is frequent talk of prayer and God's will. I felt like I was blindsided by all of the religious talk, since I didn't get that vibe from the synopsis. Religious fiction isn't my scene, and I probably wouldn't have read the book if I'd known before hand. When the story went overly in that direction, I just skipped over it and got right back to the action.
The main theme that I saw in The Girl of Fire and Thorns
was the progression of Elisa's character. In the beginning, she's spoiled, overweight and is generally kind of a brat. Then she loses weight, is actually required to work at something and becomes a likable character. She shows real strength and intelligence by the end of the novel. I haven't decided if I should be upset at the obese = not great, and slimmer = great aspects of the story or not. I do believe that living a healthy lifestyle and being in shape will make one happier, but I'm not sure if young girls reading the book will understand that. I wonder if all they'll see is she was fat and didn't get any attention, and then she lost weight and everyone wanted to be her friend. Or, I could be short changing the young women of today and they're all smarter than I was as a teenager. My Summary:
Reading this book was like riding a roller coaster. My emotions were up and down, I couldn't stand Elisa and then I respected her. Then the author would throw us on an unexpected loop, and all the emotions I just got a handle on would flail all over the place again. There are so many good YA books out there, and between the overly religious aspects of the novel and the semi-interesting storyline, this won't be making any favorite lists of mine. When I am suddenly seized with the desire to fold laundry or do the dishes while reading a book, I know it's not for me. However, I'm not sure if I've read a character progression quite like Elisa's before. It was kind of amazing, and was worth struggling through all the other bits for.My Rating: B