Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Carson, R. (2011). The Girl of Fire and Thorns. New York, NY: HarperCollins Children’s Books.

ISBN-13: 978-0062026507

Genre: Adventure, Religion, Magic, Supernatural

Reading level/ interest age: 16+

Plot summary:

Elisa is a fat, spoiled princess who ends up being married off to a king she’s never met. Everything about Elisa is unremarkable except for the Godstone lodged in her bellybutton. One of only several hundred people have ever been bestowed with this incredible gift. Elisa however does not feel so blessed. While it allows her a greater connection with God, her Godstone also puts her in grave danger. Her caravan is attacked on the way to deliver Elisa to the king and her favorite maid is killed in the process. Upon arrival, the king attempts to hide Elisa’s Godstone from others but another maid discovers it one night. A terrible plot is hatched and Elisa finds herself the victim of kidnapping. 

Forced to cross the desert on foot, Elisa quickly loses weight and becomes familiar with her captors. Upon reaching their destination, Elisa realizes that they mean her no harm. The camp is filled with injured people and Elisa discovers that a war has been waging unbeknownst to her. Can this formerly selfish princess learn to put her needs last to help her subjects?

Reader’s annotation:

Elisa is a spoiled princess who learns the hard way that not all of her subjects are as adoring as they should be. Being blessed enough to be born with a Godstone will not be enough to protect Elisa from her fate. Can she let go of her insecurities in time to prevent all-out war?

Information about the author:

“When I was eight I cut my first class. I pretended I needed to use the bathroom and snuck over to the library to check out another Nancy Drew book. I lost track of time, got back to class late, and made up a story about being constipated.

“I’ve been making up stories ever since. And it was sometime during my third grade year that I first told my parents I wanted to be a writer. They told me it was wonderful idea, but I needed to have a Plan B.

“Cheerleading changed my life. Seriously.

“I learned how to be unafraid in front of the entire school. I learned how thrilling it was to entertain others. And I learned—very gradually and with a lot of messing up—that a little kindness goes a long way when you’re trying to work as a team.

“College was a huge improvement. I loved being surrounded by peers who valued thinking and introspection. I learned that you can be a hardcore academic and still paint the town on weekends. I had my first real boyfriend, and I was able to accept the rather stunning fact that I had swanned into something kind of nice. I highly recommend college.

“During this time I traded in my pom-pons for a football. I played in the women’s flag league for four years. The first year, I broke three bones and my team tied for last place. The third year, we won the championship.

“In 2004, after quitting a very high paying job in a very toxic atmosphere, I decided to get serious about writing. It was the only thing I kept coming back to, the one thing that had held my interest over time and distance and lots of life change. So I joined the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror where I met my future best friends, my future husband, and my calling.

“Hindsight is easy, I know, and writing about the awkwardness of adolescence is way easier than living it. But I can say unequivocally that although growing up is hard, it’s totally worth it. It’s possible to become your better self. And dreams, no matter how impractical, are made to be pursued” (Carson, 2014).

Curriculum ties: N/A

Booktalking ideas:

1.       Would you feel blessed or cursed having grown up with a Godstone stuck in your skin?
2.       Why do you think Elisa decided to change from being spoiled to something resembling a true queen?

Critical evaluation:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is first and foremost a religious novel. Elisa feels more connected to God than most people in the book because her stone heats up whenever she prays. Elisa’s faith is what keeps her going through difficult situations despite all she sees to disprove the existence of God. I found this book interesting because of its religious theme. I have read many teen novels over the years and most seem reluctant to mention different religions. This book plows straight through any fear with characters devoutly worshiping God and declaring themselves to be a sect resembling Catholicism. However, though Elisa’s Godstone warms whenever she prays, there appears to be no divine intervention within the story.

Told from the perspective of Elisa, readers watch her develop from a stubborn plump girl into a responsible woman deserving of the crown. She learns the horror of the world outside the palace walls and decides to help the less fortunate in any way she can. Elisa also learns about love and loss, two very prominent parts of the plot, that help further shape her into an adult. By the end of the story, Elisa is a completely different character able to shoulder the burden of responsibility.

Imagery was an important factor in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. The descriptions of food, location, clothing, and people are all very detailed. This helps to enhance the story and make it more believable. The descriptions are at times so vivid, I have to wonder if Carson’s next novel will be in the adult genre rather than teen. This book is so borderline between the two that I could almost call it a crossover. However, I would still classify it as teen fiction because of the descriptions of time passing, the fact that it is told from Elisa’s first person perspective, and that her parental figures are mostly absent throughout.

Challenge issues: N/A

Why included:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns does revolve around Christianity and could appeal to those with a strong faith interested in reading this type of fiction. I thought the book made this collection more diverse as it is really the only religious text contained within.


Carson, R. (2014). About Rae. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from

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