The Girl of Fire and Thorns: Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Girl of Fire and Thorns: Book 1 Book Poster Image
Plus-size princess turns leader in spiritually tinged tale.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's much food for thought on the nature of faith and religious practice, fighting in the name of religious beliefs, and more. The main character also studies and implements rather cunning war tactics.

Positive Messages

Rising to challenges and having faith in yourself are big lessons here -- as is that a plus-size girl can be a respected and capable leader. Readers who have a religious practice may glean ideas about the power of prayer and faith and how God works in mysterious ways. Everyone can ponder the power of fanatical religious beliefs to divide and even provoke war.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elisa is obese at the beginning of the book, an emotional eater who's very smart but has little confidence. She rises to become a respected and capable leader. She also changes her eating and exercise habits, first by force as she's marched through the desert, and then by choice in subtle ways. She's more confident in her own skin by the end.


Elisa loses three people who are very close to her: one death is pretty sudden and bloody, while the others are from infection and burn injuries. There's also a mention of her mother's death shortly after she was born. War causes other deaths and injuries. Elisa sees a whole village of orphans and war wounded. Villages are burned, and refugees flee and seek asylum. Troops are poisoned, and Elisa is held captive and kidnapped at different times. One act of bloody self-mutilation.


A few kisses, one passionate. Mentions of affairs at court. Elisa thinks about what it will be like to sleep with her husband (it doesn't happen in this book).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine is served at most meals in court -- even breakfast. One woman becomes drunk. The fictitious duerma leaf is used to both to kill and to induce sound sleep.

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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymagicalducktape October 14, 2015

Really fun book but has some intense scenes

Really fun book! I would highly encourage reading it. I would say 13 and up because of some violence.
Teen, 13 years old Written byluszkath July 10, 2019


Ok. So let's get the facts down. The CSM was pretty accurate. There was kissing and death. Although the people that died were very close to Elisa. She was... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPascalDoggie December 4, 2019


I listened to this book on CD and let me tell you that it was soooooooo good and I really enjoyed how Elisa, the heroine really progressed throughout the book

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love girl power

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