The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson This book had a lot of promise, and I did greatly enjoy reading it. The setting was delightful, a refreshing change from the "stock pseudo-medieval England" that serves most fantasy novels. I would have loved to learn more about it, but at the same time I appreciate that the author held back. She didn't bog down the story with setting details, which helped the plot move along at a fairly decent clip.The writing was enjoyable and quick. It was a bit more lyrical than conversational, and it was consistent. I like both styles well enough, but too many authors switch between the two for no good reason, and I love that Carson had her voice and stuck to it.Elisa was a fun protagonist. She was intelligent and proactive, which is hard to find in a female protagonist these days. She finds out there's a mystery to be solved, and she doesn't just sit on her laurels going "woe is me, no one will tell me stuff." She gets up and acts and asks questions. She was also delightfully flawed, able to make my sympathize with her problems without bogging me down in paragraphs of "my life is the WORST EVER" type angst. She's got her issues, but she takes them in stride and doesn't get melodramatic about them.I only had a few major problems. First, there's a love triangle. Well, a love square. I cannot express how sick I am of love shapes. And this one takes an exceptionally cheap way to get rid of the extra corners. Second, the religion was uncomfortably close to Christianity, and it was very prominent. It was a made up religion, and I doubt the author intended anything. If religion isn't a big deal to you, it probably won't be bothersome, but it was tickling at the back of my mind the whole time. And finally, the ending was quite a cop-out. It was the ending of a completely separate book. Elisa spent the whole book setting up Action A, and it was a very interesting plot, and then the last 40 pages or so were all about solving Puzzle B. Something which had nothing to do with Action A and which didn't even show up until the last few pages. (And, to be frank, she didn't even solve it. She kind of stumbled around, doing things without quite being sure why she was doing them, and *boom*. Solved. Considering how intelligent she was through the rest of the book, I have no idea why she couldn't figure it out without mystical prompting.) It's a shame. I would have loved to see the central plot of the book have real payoff in the final pages, instead of becoming a footnote. Another major point for me was Elisa's weight. It's lovely to see authors trying to make more full-bodied heroines, but they're going about it all wrong. In this book, Elisa isn't just a large young lady; she compulsively eats because. And then midway through the book, she suddenly loses a bunch of weight through forced food rationing and a cross-desert march. Only after that does Elisa feel good about herself, not just her appearance but her skills and abilities as well. It gives the uncomfortably implication that she had to lose the weight in order to realize her full potential as a heroine. It doesn't help the matter to have a large heroine who does nothing but hammer in the idea that you have to be skinny to do good things. (Not to mention the fact that, from what we know of Elisa's world, it would make more sense for plump body shapes to be considered desirable. Not only does the author imply that one has to be pretty to be a heroine, she sends the message that "thin" is just naturally what everyone, ever, would consider pretty, because that's just how nature works.)