The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I only got this for the Best of the Best reading challenge, and didn’t even know anything about it.  Sometimes I like to go into a book not knowing too much about it and I’m really glad I didn’t.  It made every plot turn, character, and detail so surprising and exciting and fresh.  This story was so wonderful that I picked it up from the library Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday night had finished it.  I stayed up late reading and the next day let Tabby watch extra tv just so I could keep reading.  This had adventure, romance, and fantasy all wrapped in one.  It reminded me very much of Shannon Hale and Tamora Pierce novels-a fully imagined and created world that seems historical and bears a resemblance to civilizations in our world, yet has an element of magic, and its own unique history and mythology.  Also like Hale and Pierce’s books, this one has a kick ass strong heroine.  But she doesn’t start out that way!   Although Elisa is a princess and doted on by her nurse and maid, she has always been aware that her thinner, prettier, stronger sister is, frankly, the better princess and will make a great queen.  Elisa’s strengths lie in her intelligence-she has read extensively of war and military strategy, and she is also extremely pious and  is well versed in scripture. In fact, Elisa has a direct connection to God, though she is not yet sure for what purpose.
The story kicks off with Elisa being married to a somewhat neighboring king as a tactical alliance.  En route to his kingdom the adventure begins.  I really don’t want to say anything more plot-wise.  All you need to know is that it’s a wonderful story.  Religion plays a huge part in the story and I’m not sure I’ve really read anything before that has religion play such a large part where the religion is one made for the story.  It’s monotheistic but not Christian, but seems very believable.  It was all very fully realized for the story, which I just thought made it amazingly well written.

Also, I had no idea if this was going to be a series or what, but nowadays everything is a series so I assumed it was and was prepared for an unsatisfactory ending.  I was delighted to find out that the story was stand alone and had a completely satisfying ending. Then when I looked it up on Goodreads to do this post I see that it is listed as “#1”, so I guess it is going to be the start of the series (or, more likely, trilogy.) But that’s ok because like I said, this is completely stand alone and also I really liked Elisa and would love to read more about her.

Absolutely wonderful!!

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