Note: This review does not include the novellas, which I haven’t read. You can find the complete list of titles here at LT.
Prior to getting into YA literature (before I was even a librarian, but after I had started library school), I had grown tired of fantasy. Obviously I hadn’t yet discovered the world of YA fantasy and had no idea what I was missing out on. But if it had magic, dragons, etc (except for Harry Potter), I just wasn’t interested in it. But once I got into YA, I discovered that there’s a whole world of fantasy that isn’t Lord of the Rings (sprawling, epic fantasy, no matter how popular it is, isn’t for me). In more recent years, I’ve looked for fantasy novels that have strong female characters (Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms series is one of the better ones), which is why I was so excited to pick up the first of Carson’s trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
The series is about Elisa, who is the bearer of something called a Godstone, which results in her having some magic inside of her. She is smart, strong and devoted to her studies (religious in nature). Because of the Godstone, she is one of the chosen people and Elisa is left wondering what it is exactly she must do to fulfill this task, a theme which Carson weaves throughout all three novels. In the course of the first novel, she is required to marry into a neighboring kingdom and so the story of Elisa truly begins.
Throughout all three novels, Elisa must fight for her survival, those of her friends and loved ones as well as that of her people/kingdom. Elisa is strong and brave, but she’s more than that. She kicks ass, she fights back and she’s willing to make sacrifices that a queen should make. Carson doesn’t shy away from anything — including the death of characters we’ve grown to care for. The novels aren’t without love and Elisa does have a couple of love interests, but they are not the focus on the story, they are additions that give us a fuller picture. Carson is also good at writing her secondary characters and we learn about them as the story (and stories) progress. I read the three books soon after each of them came out, so there was about a year in between while I waited for the new ones to be published. But as soon as I picked each book up again, it was as though I’d never left.
Carson’s Fire and Thorns series is a fantastic bit of fantasy. It is appealing to both adults and young adults. Elisa is not your standard view of beauty, but you never question that she is, indeed beautiful. I would recommend this series to fans of Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley, as well as anyone who wants to a well written fantasy series.