The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

In The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Princess Elisa is sixteen years old and getting married to a man she has never met – King Alejandro from neighboring country Joya d’Arena. Although plump Elisa often feels commonplace and dowdy, she is widely considered singular because she was chosen to bear the Godstone, a once-in-a-century occurrence. The living stone nestled in her navel marks her as God’s chosen one with a special destiny. Elisa has spent her years in Brisadulce living in her older sister’s shadow and studying the Scriptura Sancta in relative peace. Upon leaving, she is about to be thrust into a world of political intrigue and omnipresent danger for which she is ill prepared.

Elisa experiences many adventures throughout the book, from being kidnapped by rebels, organizing a guerilla war, and growing in her understanding of her role as the bearer of the Godstone. However, her greatest journey is from a timid, scared, and unhappy girl buffeted by the forces around her to a strong, confident, and capable young lady shaping her own destiny. The Girl of Fire and Thorns was especially enjoyable because of its intricate treatment of both the plot – where bad things happen to good people - and the characters – many of whom are flawed on some level. I appreciated the Spanish influence on Carson’s world and the complex, multifaceted role that religion played through the story.

While this is the first book in a planned trilogy, the story comes to a good conclusion and left me satisfied, while simultaneously looking forward to the next installment.