Shannon's Reviews > The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
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did not like it
bookshelves: ebook, color-brown, color-blue, young-adult, magic, fantasy, epic-fantasy, waste-of-time, terrible-writing
Recommended to Shannon by: Elena

If you caught even just a couple of my updates I think it would've been plainly obvious that I didn't enjoy this book. It's disappointing, really, because I think Carson was attempting to create a heroine that many girls could relate to. Elisa is overweight, unsure of herself, overshadowed by her prettier and skinnier sister, and chosen for something she's not sure she's worthy of. It sounds like the beginning of a compelling story, but ultimately Elisa only proves her worthiness by changing everything about herself. And walking. A lot.

Elisa is fat and likes to eat. You will hear about the food she eats and the sweets she craves so often that you'll start to wonder if you're reading a thinly veiled advertisement instead, or if this book was sponsored by the coconut or lamb industry. This girl eats so many scones. And when she's not eating, she's thinking about her next meal or about what she had the day before. Even after Elisa loses some weight and doesn't need to shove food down her gullet 24/7 to stave off headaches and fatigue, the story still revolves around her meals. I didn't need to know what she was eating every single day, or how it was prepared or who prepared it or how it tasted ... really. Cut out the food descriptions and this book would've been half as long. I get it, Elisa likes food and has a love/hate relationship with it. Am I reading a fantasy story or the food diary of a girl with an eating disorder?

After food, a large amount of the story is spent on Elisa walking from point A to point B. Sometimes with other people, sometimes against her will, sometimes alone. So then all of that walking means fat Elisa becomes skinny Elisa and all of her problems start melting away along with the pounds; people think she can win their war, boys fall in love with her, girls want to be her best friend. And the Godstone in her belly (that she can now see without parting her breasts and moving her stomach fat out of the way - wut) starts to react to danger, helping her elude her enemies. Because God rewards you when you're not fat!

There are also plot holes (and really, not a whole lot of plot to begin with) and at one point a character remarks that they have no idea why the enemy is attacking. The magic is incredibly underdeveloped and mostly relies on praying and hoping something will happen. Generals, guards, and the King all look to Elisa for war counsel when all she had ever done was read this world's version of The Art of War. The first person I'd look to for advice during war would definitely be a 16-year-old girl.

Elisa's hair-brained schemes work because the author wants them to. Everything is conveniently tied up with a neat little bow and there's not a single surprise. In the end, I was so unattached to any of the characters that I barely even blinked when someone died.

Elisa has a magic stone in her belly button, she's good at memorizing stuff, has blind faith in God, and knows the best pastry recipes. Those are her special powers. Elisa is a boring character surrounded by other boring characters living out a boring story with food being a much more developed entity than any of the people or the plot. I will probably not continue with this series.
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Reading Progress

June 10, 2012 – Shelved
November 8, 2012 – Started Reading
November 8, 2012 –
0.0% "Starting this based on a recommendation ... we'll see how this goes ..."
November 13, 2012 –
17.0% "The Bella Guerra says this, the Bella Guerra says that. Oh my god, why don't you just marry the Bella Guerra?"
November 13, 2012 –
19.0% "Yes, agree to do the dirty work for a man who won't even acknowledge you're his wife."
November 13, 2012 –
20.0% "This girl has a really unhealthy relationship with food. She's been at this new palace for just a few days and the cook already knows to hand her a plate of cheese when she comes into the kitchen looking upset. And she's always eating to the point where she can't even taste the food anymore and then she gets mad at herself for doing so. Then she's upset she's fat. Vicious cycle."
November 13, 2012 –
28.0% "All this girl does is gorge on food and mope."
November 14, 2012 –
34.0% "Good lord, just think of how much food Elisa's taster had to eat."
November 14, 2012 –
36.0% "What, no mention of how her borrowed clothes don't fit or how she can barely pull the boots passed her cankles?"
November 14, 2012 –
37.0% "If I was a fat girl being forced to march through a desert I'd probably sit my ass down and tell them that they could fucking drag me."
November 14, 2012 –
40.0% "At long last, after nearly a month of hot travel ...

What? I was trying to keep track and by my count they were traveling for 10-12 days. She's not incredibly specific but there's no way I miscounted by two weeks. This feels like it's going to be a cop out so Elisa can suddenly not be fat. Also, with limited water who the hell would make soup while traveling across the desert?

"
November 14, 2012 –
41.0% "Let's say Elisa was 300 lbs at the start. At the most, she probably lost around 45 pounds during their trek, which would be a significant loss, but she's now describing herself like she lost 100. She can finally see her belly button! : |

Also, pretty sure her skinny companions are now walking skeletons.

"
November 18, 2012 –
52.0% "This is where I'm at and I have to say it's getting more and more difficult to push myself through. I want to read other books instead : ("
November 18, 2012 –
54.0% "So why is the Godstone making Elisa cold now all of a sudden if she doesn't keep praying? That's kind of a dick move. You're in mortal danger but I want you to constantly pray that you'll succeed or you'll freeze to death ... Muahahahahaha!"
November 18, 2012 –
64.0% "For some reason my brain keeps reading "asparagus" instead of "animagus." I have a feeling this is ruining any tension that would've been created.

"We must fear the asparagus!"

"
November 19, 2012 –
85.0% "So you got all dressed up, have been gone for months, and probably lost about 60 pounds, and you're upset that your husband you knew for what ... a few days? doesn't recognize you. Oh, and he's awful for appreciating the effort you put into your appearance by checking you out and then approving of what he sees. Awful, awful man. How dare he."
November 19, 2012 –
98.0% "Well, isn't that just convenient. I really despise neat little bows."
November 19, 2012 –
100.0% "Bah."
November 19, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 93 (93 new)


message 1: by Lucy (new) - added it

Lucy Right? Or gorge on food because she's feeling mopey.


Wendy Darling I read a few pages and then gave it up. I'm curious to see both yours and Lucy's reactions by the end, because so many people love it! People I trust, too.


SubterraneanCatalyst I like her but I think that Carson was too ham handed about trying to impress upon us that she has "issues".


message 4: by Tabitha (new) - added it

Tabitha This sounds terrible. Glad I didn't decide to pick it up!


Krystle Wow, lol. I was more in the middle. Heh. Not too interested in reading on.


Grace Yeah I didn't like it either and couldn't finish it. Hey, would you read Edenbrooke and tell me what you think?


Grace Okay, to be fair to you, I am asking you what you think because it got super high ratings on here and amazon and I read to about 40% and I wanted to puke. What a terrible book!! But no one in the world seems to think so!!!


message 8: by Lis (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lis I felt similarly disappointed after I finished the book, but I gave three stars for a somewhat bland original read and for doing the supporting characters respective justice.

I agree with your points about the magic and Elisa!


Shannon Grace wrote: "Hey, would you read Edenbrooke and tell me what you think?"

I had to look that up because I had no idea what it was! Historical romance is one of my least favorite genres so I won't be reading that. I only have one friend who's read it, but she enjoyed it.


Shannon Grace wrote: "Okay, to be fair to you, I am asking you what you think because it got super high ratings on here and amazon and I read to about 40% and I wanted to puke. What a terrible book!! But no one in the world seems to think so!!!"

Lol, I'd love to help you out but I'm definitely not the foremost expert on HR. I'd probably hate it too.


message 11: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Your view on this is interesting, but I have to say that I loved it. As someone who has been through the image-issues and the weight-issues (being overweight, and losing it, and then dealing with the food relationship after) it rings true based on my experiences. I also enjoyed the fantasy a lot more, too. I will say that, if it had been discussed less, I would have found the weight issues to be shallow - authors rarely explore them with the needed depth.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

You know, I liked this book, but you raise a lot of great points that I agree with. Well done on that. I think the reason I connected with it so much was because I actually really enjoyed the way the religion was handled, and as an atheist, that doesn't happen for me often. I think I was more or less shocked I enjoyed a book that was so religious and maybe for this reason I was liberal with the stars. But I do understand the fat stuff. Her body issues were out of control.


Shannon John wrote: "I will say that, if it had been discussed less, I would have found the weight issues to be shallow - authors rarely explore them with the needed depth."

My main problem is that she is seen as a waste of space until she loses weight. The King doesn't love her and won't acknowledge she's his queen, people mock her behind her back and to her face, and when someone finds out she bears the Godstone she's met with disgust. She loses weight and suddenly all of that disappears and they treat her like an all-knowing heavenly savior. Fat people can't be heroes.


message 14: by Shannon (last edited Nov 19, 2012 09:41PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Shannon Kara wrote: "I think the reason I connected with it so much was because I actually really enjoyed the way the religion was handled, and as an atheist, that doesn't happen for me often."

The religion didn't feel like religion to me ... it was more like, "We need to beef up the story, uh, let's make the reason she has a stone in her belly because ... God! Yeah."

She quoted the Belliza Guerra more, it seemed, and just prayed a lot.

ETA: I don't know a lot about Christianity so I'll admit I forgot about all of the self-sacrifice and service junk, but Madame X's review reminded me. And then there's the no sex without marriage crap. So, I suppose this was pretty religious, and pretty Christian.


message 15: by Steph (last edited Nov 19, 2012 09:12PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Steph Sinclair Oh, THT, I do enjoy your reviews. ^_^

I've had this on my TBR list for ages and once, I even checked it out from the library. I read the first page and just lost interest. Maybe one day I'll try again, but probably not anytime soon. The weight issue thing would drive me off a cliff, just like it did with Sydney in Bloodlines. Ugh.


message 16: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John That's a good point to make. When I read it, though, I don't think it was because she was fat that she wasn't considered queen. It's an issued timing of events, yes, but I perceived Elise to be the hero from page one. She was brave and strong, marrying someone she didn't know, struggling with her self image. It's hard to equate that struggle-of-self with heroism because it's so self-defacing, but, because the thoughts rang true to my personal experience, I felt like she was brave - if stubborn, if politically ignorant - at the beginning, too. Still, you bring up good points.


message 17: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Great review, THT. I hate when books perpetuate the message Hollywood drills into us that anyone who is curvy (outside of the chest area) is ugly and worthless. It's no wonder eating disorders are so prevalent in our society.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll complete agree with you that the whole eating things was unnerving. Not all overweight people eat enough to feed a family. Genetics and hormones play a huge role in weight as well. I found that very offensive that she shoved her face full of food. Hooray stereotypes.


Shannon Lyn (The Heartless) wrote: "I found that very offensive that she shoved her face full of food. Hooray stereotypes."

She is quite literally obsessed with food. And it never stops. I hated how she gets skinny and then pokes "fun" at her eating habits. Like, "Haha, I used to eat so much food, didn't I? Haha."

I never felt like she was happy with herself or with anything she accomplished either.


message 20: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Yeesh. Avoiding this one.


message 21: by Kate (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kate Bond Huh. The food thing didn't bother me because I'm naturally underweight, so I thought maybe it was just something that didn't fit into my personal experience. How dumb and condescending of me. Same thing with the weird religious stuff, since I'm atheist.

Also, my retention was like 4%--I was about halfway through the sequel before I had any idea what was going on.


Wendy Darling Random House did a round-up of YA books with non-skinny heroines last week, and included this one as a positive example. But my friends Kate and Lamia mentioned the same thing you did--the fact that the weight is endlessly discussed.

Thanks for the review, I think I was right in skipping this one. People sure do love it, though! Our giveaway for this and the sequel was the most popular one we ever had.


Alicia (is beyond tired of your *ish) The Holy Terror wrote:
"Because God rewards you when you're not fat!

Fat people can't be heroes."


Well, shit.


message 24: by Jill (new)

Jill Oh but this sounds horrible! It also seems like really negative messages are abound about weight and importance of appearance, which is anything BUT a positive representation of overweightness, something that I think is sorely needed both in literature and TV, film, etc.


message 25: by Lucy (new) - added it

Lucy Wendy Darling wrote: "Random House did a round-up of YA books with non-skinny heroines last week, and included this one as a positive example. But my friends Kate and Lamia mentioned the same thing you did--the fact tha..."

I wish they'd exclude ones that managed to get magically thin from lists like that. Say you have a kid struggling with body image/body acceptance and you buy a batch of books with heroines of all sizes and then there's this book in the mix where the heroine is only worth anything after dropping 50 pounds.


Dichotomy Girl I'm so confused about what to do with this book. So many of my goodreads friends loved it, but several absolutely hated it.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Alicia wrote: "The Holy Terror wrote:
"Because God rewards you when you're not fat!

Fat people can't be heroes."

Well, shit."


Nu-un. I am Captain Brownie, I will have you know.


message 28: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Alicia wrote: "The Holy Terror wrote:
"Because God rewards you when you're not fat!

Fat people can't be heroes."

Well, shit."


What She said.


Wendy Darling Lucy wrote: "I wish they'd exclude ones that managed to get magically thin from lists like that. Say you have a kid struggling with body image/body acceptance and you buy a batch of books with heroines of all sizes and then there's this book in the mix where the heroine is only worth anything after dropping 50 pounds."

I know what you mean. It wasn't a huge article, more of a jumping point for discussion, I guess. As I was chatting to them on Twitter, I asked them about their inclusion of SKINNY, since it's about a girl has gastric bypass surgery. They replied that it because it was an example of that, which is uncommon in YA lit. Here is the feature, btw:

Body Diversity in YA

The thing you mention, girls getting magically thin and finding acceptance, came up during the discussion as a pet peeve, too.


message 30: by Elena (last edited Nov 20, 2012 09:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elena I'm sorry you didn't like it! The way Elisa's weight was handled really, really annoyed me, but it was my only reservation. I loved it otherwise.

I read the article Wendy's talking about, and actually commented to say I disagreed with this book's inclusion. Though it looks like they declined to publish my comment...


Wendy Darling Elena wrote: "I read the article Wendy's talking about, and actually commented to say I disagreed with this book's inclusion. Though it looks like they declined to publish my comment... "

Oh, interesting.


message 32: by Sans (last edited Nov 20, 2012 11:29AM) (new)

Sans What the actual fuck? *removes this book from to-read list*

Because God rewards you when you're not fat!
I'd laugh, but a lot of people seem to think this is true. >_<


message 33: by Galla (new)

Galla I keep trying to remove this from my "Want to Read" list, AND IT KEEPS PUTTING ITSELF BACK ON. Like weight. Maybe that's what happens in the sequel.


message 34: by Julia (new) - added it

Julia Awh, I loved this one but you make some fantastic points. Great review!


Alicia (is beyond tired of your *ish) Lyn (The Heartless) wrote: "Nu-un. I am Captain Brownie, I will have you know."

Can I be your sidekick, Á la Mode?


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Alicia wrote: "Lyn (The Heartless) wrote: "Nu-un. I am Captain Brownie, I will have you know."

Can I be your sidekick, Á la Mode?"


We're so awesome, it hurts.


message 37: by Lis (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lis Also I find it hilarious that under her "inspiration" on her GR about me page she puts Margaret Atwood. Oooh, the irony.


Alicia (is beyond tired of your *ish) Lyn (The Heartless) wrote: "We're so awesome, it hurts."

Yeah, we are.


Shootthepianoplayer totally and utterly agree! well said


message 40: by Kelci (new) - rated it 1 star

Kelci Prewett This is one of the funniest, yet most accurate reviews, I've read. I made it through about a third of the book and decided to see what everyone else thought. This review puts my exact thoughts into words :)


Opemikun Hey, if you don't like the fact that the girl lost weight, it's probably because you're overweight and you don't like hearing it yourself. Obesity is a real threat and a problem that many people are dealing with, and I am happy that Rae Carson has found a way to handle it with grace. The books plot may have taken too long to develop and the book might have an ending that's a little underwhelming, but I think it was a very worthy read.


message 42: by Julia (new) - added it

Julia That had to be the nastiest comment to someone I have read in a long time. THT's reasons were very valid- - the heroine didn't become heroic until she lost weight and that is a weird message to send. Overweight girls can't be heroes? That is how she interpreted it and I understand her interpretation. Way to belittle someone, though.


Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship} Opemikun wrote: "Hey, if you don't like the fact that the girl lost weight, it's probably because you're overweight and you don't like hearing it yourself. Obesity is a real threat and a problem that many people are dealing with, and I am happy that Rae Carson has found a way to handle it with grace. The books plot may have taken too long to develop and the book might have an ending that's a little underwhelming, but I think it was a very worthy read."

How very rude! Your mother must be so proud.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Opemikun wrote: "Hey, if you don't like the fact that the girl lost weight, it's probably because you're overweight and you don't like hearing it yourself."

How very horribly closed-minded and rude. Seriously, step away from the keyboard. I haven't see something this tacky in a long time.


message 45: by Shannon (last edited Aug 02, 2013 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Shannon Thanks guys, but I don't argue with trolls. Blocked and flagged.

But no, I am not overweight, and even if I was, you missed the entire point of my review. Nice try though.


message 46: by Shannon (last edited Aug 02, 2013 04:50PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Shannon And for anyone else that wanders in and feels the need to be rude, please read a previous comment I made:

My main problem is that she is seen as a waste of space until she loses weight. The King doesn't love her and won't acknowledge she's his queen, people mock her behind her back and to her face, and when someone finds out she bears the Godstone she's met with disgust. She loses weight and suddenly all of that disappears and they treat her like an all-knowing heavenly savior. Fat people can't be heroes.

It's possible I need to add this into my review, though I figured I made this obvious. Maybe some people are just slow and don't like realizing that about themselves.


message 47: by Tabitha (new) - added it

Tabitha I can't help it I get a chuckle every time this review of yours pops back up in my feed updates. So glad I wasn't tempted to read this one.


message 48: by Nan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nan As someone that really liked this book, I have to say that I adored your review. You're right; the way that Elisa gains value to others only as she loses weight is a terrible message.

I'd like to say that Elisa's overeating was a function of her perception of her uselessness. She knows that the Godstone signals that she is meant to do great things, but she does not understand how or even perceive her own worth. Instead, as a means to cope with the pressure of incipient greatness and present failure, she eats.

As a psychological response, the overeating makes sense. However, the way that Carson uses it in the book is a huge problem. The magic weight loss cure of forced activity is simply too convenient. Elisa finds her own worth and *poof* her body issues disappear and suddenly everyone sees her value.

It would have been more challenging, I think, to keep Elisa fat. (Yes, I know, obesity is bad, yada yada yada.) As a storytelling mechanism, though, she would have accepted herself with her flaws. The other characters that changed opinions of her as well would have come to respect her for actions, despite their initial disgust with her weight. Now that would have been a difficult story to tell in our fat-shaming society.


Shannon Tabitha the Pabkins wrote: "I can't help it I get a chuckle every time this review of yours pops back up in my feed updates. So glad I wasn't tempted to read this one."

Ha, I can't help it. When someone says something stupid I just want to make it so more people see my review :p


Shannon Nan wrote: "As someone that really liked this book, I have to say that I adored your review. You're right; the way that Elisa gains value to others only as she loses weight is a terrible message."

Thanks, Nan. And that's exactly how I felt.

Yes, obesity is a huge problem around the world but I can't endorse such an unhealthy message that a teen who is overweight might read - you don't matter unless you're skinny. It's just awful.


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