On her sixteenth birthday Princess Elisa must marry a complete stranger, Alejandro is the King of a far away kingdom and Elisa is taken to live with him in her new home. She is expecting to be greeted as a Queen but her husband refuses to announce their marriage leaving Elisa confused and doubting everything she has been told. Can Elisa find a place for herself in her new country?
Fire and Thorns is a fantastic debut with rich word building and strong characters. Rae Carson takes you on a journey through dangerous jungles and across the harsh but beautiful desert, her writing is beautifully descriptive making it easy to picture your surroundings. The story is one that draws you in from the first page and doesn't let you go until you've reached the end - this was definitely a read in one sitting book for me.
Elisa is a wonderful main character, she starts the story full of self doubt and with very little confidence, she is young and naive and it shows, but as the story progresses she blossoms into a confident and mature young woman. Elisa is supported by a strong cast of characters, particularly ones that she meets in the second half of the book. I was never a massive fan of Alejandro, he is too weak and indecisive for me, but I really liked Lord Hector and who could resist Humberto?
I have to give a slight spoiler warning here because there was just one thing that really bugged me about the story. I was so pleased at the beginning of the book to finally read about an overweight heroine, that's something that you don't come across often enough in my opinion. Elisa is a comfort eater and I found it so easy to relate to her as it's something I've done myself for years. I had such high hopes as Elisa started to find her confidence and I even thought she was starting to win Alejandro's heart despite being overweight - finally I'm getting to read about a chubby heroine who wins the handsome boy's heart! - but unfortunately I was wrong. As Elisa journeys through the desert she undergoes a dramatic transformation and arrives at her destination slim. Now having undergone my own dramatic transformation this year (losing nearly 7 stone) I have to say that Elisa's feelings about her new figure were very realistic and I completely connected with the way she felt. What I didn't like was the message that she had to lose weight to be worthy of her people, until her transformation she was looked down on by everyone and it wasn't until she'd lost weight that Alejandro really showed more than a passing friendly interest in her. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it having struggled with my own weight issues for years but the whole thing made me feel uncomfortable and sad about what message this will give to teenagers with similar problems. For once I'd have liked to have seen the fat girl get a happy ending without having to lose weight first.
Despite my issue with Elisa's weight loss I still think that Fire and Thorns is a wonderful debut, I was captivated from the beginning and didn't want the story to end. The story is beautifully written, the plot is strong and full of shocking twists and turns and despite being the first in a trilogy the ending isn't a frustrating cliffhanger. Yes it leaves you with questions and makes you keen to read the next book but it doesn't leave you screaming that you have to wait a whole year for answers. I can't wait to see what happens to Elisa next and I'll be first in line to pick up a copy of Crown of Embers next year.