So the first book in this year’s family book club was The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. It is a young adult political fantasy set in a Latin American inspired world. One nice thing about this is that it doesn’t just claim to be Latin American inspired there it is s a constant presence in the language, religion, landscape, etc. It follows a young princess, Elisa, who is married off to the widowed king, Alejandro of Joya d’Arena to secure a military alliance. Matters are slightly complicated as Elisa is the Bearer of the Godstone. Once every four generations a light from the heavens grants a blue stone into the navel of a child.
I personally love religion in fantasy novels it’s an automatic buy-in. I think there is so much room to explore, especially when this world where a divine entities existence is unquestionable there are still questions. There are still sects and religious zealots. Carson handles the religion with respect but also the nuance and diversity that an accurate representation requires.
Obviously this book takes place during wartime. As someone who studied political science (focusing in war and genocide), I find any representation of such to be normally lackluster or too brutal. I think Carson tried hard to show the horrors while keeping it Young Adult (more age appropriate/ innuendo instead of description). The opponents in this war are the Irvierne. They are evil and called heretics. My mom and I are in a heated debate about whether they are supposed to be savages or European colonizers. Both work incredibly well in the world and it’s inspiration.
The characters are well fleshed out. While the characters still have their mysteries and more to explore this the beginning of a trilogy. They are multi-dimensional. A vastly intelligent character can have an unhealthy relationship with food. The protector is vengeful. The cowardly wield immense power. Elisa is my favorite Slytherin main character. Hand-to what ever you believe in she is what Salazar Slytherin had in mind when founding his house. All the relationships that develop (romantic, platonic, familial) are rooted so deeply in common purpose, shared interest, a need for attention from anyone, etc. No motivation, word, tear, feels misplaced or put there to move along the plot. It all feels true.
I highly recommend this book if you are interested in military or religious fantasy. Or if you just like reading for me this was a 5 star read.
Below are my favorite quotes from the book and a discussion question. (Obviously spoilers)
“I feel the smile turn more dangerous. No longer Alodia’s but fully my own because I get to brag bout my nurse after all.” -132
“My next breath is more like a sob. I should laugh off his words or thank him for saying so but my throat won’t open.” -299
“‘You, Cosme, Hector, even little Rosario, were already willing to be heroes’ And Humberto, says a little voice in my head. ‘You didn’t need to be chose. But I would have done nothing, become nothing, were it not for this thing inside me. So God picked me because I was unworthy.'” -422
If you read the book did you think the Invieros were European invaders?