A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Girl of Fire and Thorns, the first of a planned trilogy, features a plus-size princess, Elisa, who was chosen by God (in a fictional religion) for a special unknown task. She has a "Godstone," which appears in the navel of one chosen once in a hundred years, and it responds to her prayer with warmth and to danger with cold. She begins the book as intelligent but insecure and afraid, and she ends it a capable and respected leader. It's wartime, so injuries are frequent but not described in graphic detail. But three people close to Elisa die, and there's a scene of self-mutilation. Sexual content is light (kisses only), and even with all the wine drinking at court, only one person gets drunk. The Girl of Fire and Thorns made the 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list, compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association.
What's the story?
At her naming ceremony, Princess Elisa is given the blessing that only one person in a hundred years receives: a Godstone in her navel declaring her as God's chosen to perform an unknown task. Despite this honor, she still grows up in the shadow of her older (and much more petite) sister. That is, until she's shipped off at 16 as the bride of King Alejandro to preside over a larger kingdom. It's a kingdom in trouble. A war is brewing against the Inviernos, a huge army led by sorcerers who know that Elisa is out there and want the mysterious power of her Godstone at all costs. But they're not the only ones, she finds out, when she's kidnapped and marched through the desert to one of the kingdom's far-flung villages hardest hit by attackers.
Is it any good?
THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS will attract more than the typical fantasy fan thanks to its fabulous princess. And no, she's not fabulous just because she's an affirmation that plus-size girls can be the heroines. She's whip-smart and gives her life's purpose and the plight of those around her serious thought. And isn't it always the reluctant leaders who make the best ones in the end? She's someone definitely worth following in two more books (a trilogy is planned).
The unique mystical quality of The Girl of Fire and Thorns will attract others. No wonder the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of the American Library Association) placed it on its 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list. It makes religion both personal -- with Elisa's Godstone and the way it responds directly to her -- and topical, with a war perpetuated by religious fervor and fear. And the sorcerers from Invierno are still enough of a mystery that it keeps the reader guessing about the nature of the magic they summon. It's another reason to eagerly await the sequel.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about this unlikely heroine. Do you root for her more because she's called fat by the young prince in front of the whole court? Or would you prefer she fit better into the typical princess mold? How many other unlikely princesses can you think of?
How do Elisa's changing physical habits (no more emotional eating, for starters) mirror the new person she's becoming?
For those with a spiritual practice, there's lots to discuss: the power of prayer, overcoming doubts, trusting God's plan. How does the spiritual world that Elisa inhabits compare to yours?
- Author: Rae Carson
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Great girl role models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
- Publication date: September 20, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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