Friday, January 27, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns


I loved that the author chose a Spanish-influenced culture for the story's backdrop. In most of the fantasy I've read, the cultures tend toward more English and French roots, with plenty of Norwegian and Viking-ish clones. I've also seen quite a few with Arabic and Egyptian accents, but Spain? I don't think I've read any like that before. That I find very exciting.

So it's refreshing to see that influence in the book, in the character's names, place settings, and even the flow of the language. The fact that I'd recently returned from a trip to Spain before reading likely influenced my notice of the language. As I read, the text flowed with a Spanish cadence through my head, the lull and rise of rolling syllables and the passion behind the words.

That said, I struggled with one element of the story, and it colored my overall impression of the book. The main character, Princess Elisa isn't skinny, not in the least. That's great; books need more characters who represent teens of all colors, shapes, and sizes. The problem I has was with the way Carson handled (treated? I can't think of the right word) Elisa's obesity. Yes, overweight women and teens eat a lot, or at least more than they're burning off through activity, but I don't know of a single woman dealing with weight issues who thinks of food all the time. Sure, Elisa's a stress-eater (I am too, though I've learned to temper it to a good extent), but focusing so much of the character's thoughts on food and eating—always hungry, need food—overstates it to the point of caricature. 

I'm guessing Carson didn't intend for it to come across that way, but with so much emphasis placed on the princess' eating habits (even once she begins to lose weight), it threw the story out of balance for me. It became the story of a fat princess who loses weight, and not the story of an awkward girl who does her best to save a kingdom despite some rather difficult physically and emotional limitations.

All that said, it's an enjoyable read, and I can see how it has so many devoted fans. The book was reminiscent of—and perhaps a tribute to—Tamora Pierce's Alanna series. So I'm giving this book 3 1/2 stars with the hope that the sequel will improve upon the first and make this a 5-star series.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

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