Reviews for Girl of Fire and Thorns

Booklist Reviews 2011 October #1
In 16-year-old Elisa, first-time novelist Carson has created a fascinating and credible heroine who battles her way through her own timidity and self-doubt to discover her abilities to love, lead, and suffer loss without denying her future or her faith. Set in an alternative premodern Iberian- and Christianity-hued Saharan-like world, Elisa's adventures include an arranged marriage, a politically and religiously inspired kidnapping, hand-to-hand combat with knife and wits against men trained for battle, the traumatic death of her beloved, and the care of a six-year-old boy. She, as well as the central drama of this promising series starter, depends on the guidance of the holy gem she carries in her navel: the Godstone, which marks her as one whose service shows forth through history-changing practice as well as belief. Carson presents a thorough theology (complete with holy texts), complex characters, dramatic landscapes, royal courts, and a range of difficulties solved through wisdom rather than accident. Romantic, lush, and thought provoking. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Soon after Princess Lucero-Elisa marries King Alejandro of Joya d'Arena, she is kidnapped by desert nomads. She then discovers that the blue Godstone in her navel does not just indicate a great destiny, but it may also help her two kingdoms win an impending war. Fantasy fans will enjoy the Spanish-influenced world and Elisa's journey from self-conscious teen to powerful queen.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 August #1

Adventure drags our heroine all over the map of fantasyland while giving her the opportunity to use her smarts.

Elisa—Princess Lucero-Elisa de Riqueza of Orovalle—has been chosen for Service since the day she was born, when a beam of holy light put a Godstone in her navel. She's a devout reader of holy books and is well-versed in the military strategy text Belleza Guerra, but she has been kept in ignorance of world affairs. With no warning, this fat, self-loathing princess is married off to a distant king and is embroiled in political and spiritual intrigue. War is coming, and perhaps only Elisa's Godstone—and knowledge from the Belleza Guerra—can save them. Elisa uses her untried strategic knowledge to always-good effect. With a character so smart that she doesn't have much to learn, body size is stereotypically substituted for character development. Elisa's "mountainous" body shrivels away when she spends a month on forced march eating rat, and thus she is a better person. Still, it's wonderfully refreshing to see a heroine using her brain to win a war rather than strapping on a sword and charging into battle.

Despite the stale fat-to-curvy pattern, compelling world building with a Southern European, pseudo-Christian feel, reminiscent of Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful (2002), keeps this entry fresh. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #1

Carson debuts with a smart, complex fantasy with stellar characters, first in a planned trilogy. Even though she bears the mysterious and rare Godstone, 16-year-old Princess Elisa has been a disappointment to her family and country. Plain, overweight, and unmotivated, she is content to wed a handsome neighboring king to cement an alliance. After an arduous journey to her new home, Elisa arrives to find that her husband wants to keep their status hidden. But there are more pressing concerns--the enemy is preparing to invade, and Elisa is kidnapped. As she is thrust into a fight for survival on the borders of her new kingdom, Elisa is hunted by dark magicians and must piece together clues to fulfill her divine decree. Elisa is a sensational heroine, striving to fulfill her potential under perilous circumstances, while realistically growing in resourcefulness, inner strength, and intelligence. The odd nature of the Godstone (which is embedded in Elisa's stomach) may occasionally pull some readers out of the story, but Carson's mature writing style, thoughtful storytelling, appealing characters, and surprising twists add up to a page-turner with broad appeal. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 August

Gr 7 Up--This compelling first book in a medieval fantasy trilogy features Elisa, a 16-year-old princess, as she grows from an inexperienced girl who is forced to marry a weak king for political reasons into a confident and capable young woman, destined to be a respected leader in her own right. Shortly after her birth, Elisa received a magical Godstone in her navel, a sign bestowed every 100 years on a chosen one. Despite this, she feels inadequate when compared to her older, more beautiful sister so she eats to compensate for it. She's also very clever, particularly in the strategies of war, but all that most people see is her ample size. The only person who respects her is young Lord Hector, her husband's personal guard. Shortly after her wedding, she's kidnapped and forced to endure an arduous journey through the desert that toughens her. One of her kidnappers is a young man who falls for her and she for him. His people hope that she, as the Godstone bearer, can save them from their constant war against a neighboring enemy. This fast-moving and exciting novel is rife with political conspiracies and machinations. Elisa's maturation and physical transformation echo Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Princess Ben (Houghton Harcourt, 2008). Fans of Tamora Pierce's "Beka Cooper" series (Random) will find a kindred spirit in Elisa as she experiences great adversity and heart-wrenching loss.--Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

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VOYA Reviews 2011 December
Many fantasy books have a strong female character, but this fantasy differs in that the heroine is a young, much-indulged fat girl. The opening lines are, "I have been praying--no begging--that King Alejandro de Vega, my future husband, will be ugly, old and fat." Elise thinks then he will not be disappointed in her. After popping the seams of her wedding dress, Elise is married, and her character transformation begins. Besides being a princess, Elisa has been selected by her God for service, what service she does not know. Others think they know--her husband's country is on the brink of war, and he wants her help; holders of dark magic are seeking her; and a determined revolutionary thinks she can save his people. Through the adventures, including being kidnapped and caught in a massive sandstorm, Elisa digs deep to find determination and the ability to lead The fantasy world created is intoxicating. Names, food, architecture, language, beliefs and culture are all shown to the reader, not merely described. Readers will find themselves immersed in this world and believing it. This an action-packed adventure with a little romance that leaves the reader wanting to begin the second book in the planned trilogy. This one will move.--Susan Allen 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.