I've had a bit of a reading slump lately and haven't been particularly excited about most of the books I've been reading. I do recall racing through Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why last month (and it's a worthwhile book to put on the TBR list), but most of my other reads have taken a while to get through.
Until last weekend. Friday night I started Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and by the end of the day Saturday I had finished it. If you haven't heard of it, the book is about a princess who was marked at birth to “do something special” for her world, only she's starting to wonder if maybe she's missed her chance. After all, what can the fat, awkward second daughter of a minor king do to change anyone's life for the better?
Quite a lot, actually. Elisa is very determined and has a head for strategy. She's married off to another king within the first chapter, and while we get the impression that she hasn't done much with her life so far, as soon as she leaves home she makes the most of her situation. She has her share of flaws, but she always pushes herself to her limits.
Personally one of my favorite pieces of the story was the religion. Fantasy religions are often hard to make feel authentic. So often the religions invented for made-up worlds are either slightly ridiculous (taking a sarcastic view of faith) or are so wrapped up in the magic of the world that there isn't really a faith component. Now the religion portrayed in The Girl of Fire and Thorns is perhaps a little too familiar, depending on your perspective. (One of the rituals has several parallels to Communion.) But I really appreciated the authenticity of the struggles that Elisa faces in relation to her faith.
I also appreciated that the book didn't shy away from the realities of death and havoc during wartime. While the story remains positive and hopeful overall, it doesn't let everyone live simply for the sake of a happily ever after. I was glad that Rae Carson chose to make tough choices with the characters.
Which ultimately means that I'm hooked on the series and looking forward to book two. Hopefully by the time it comes out in the fall you'll have read the first one and be looking forward to it too!