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A Reader of Fictions: Audiobook Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns Reread

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns Reread

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Fire and Thorns, Book 1

Author: Rae Carson
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Duration: 12 hrs, 9 mins
Publisher: Harper Audio
Source: Library

Description from Goodreads:
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

I have always loved rereading, and with my memory it's both a necessity (if I want to remember any details of my favorite books) and a pleasure. Even once I have a book pretty well ensconced in my head, I love to revisit the characters, to discover intricacies of the plot or little jokes that previously escaped me. On first rereads, I can be caught off guard by twists I had forgotten. In this case, though, my first reread of a book I've reviewed on my blog, I am rereading a book I didn't care for originally. You see, I read it and it left a bad taste in my mouth, but then everyone with similar taste read it and thought it was awesome, and I just felt I had to try again. Unfortunately, I still don't love it, but I do think I was a bit overly harsh in my first assessment, when I simply was not in the mood for the story.

I have two main issues with The Girl of Fire and Thorns: Elisa and religion. I'll discuss Elisa first. Initially, I was very excited to read a fantasy novel centering around an overweight heroine. Such a thing simply isn't seen. You do get some muscular heroines (like Kel from Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small Quartet) who stand out from the svelte, trim crowd, but an unfit heroine...not so much. Then I met Elisa. She irritates the heck out of me. When the reader first meets her, she has sister issues like crazy, no self-esteem, hates herself for being fat, and eats everything in sight. Because of her inferiority complex, she moans and whimpers, blaming everyone else for her own shortcomings.

What I hoped for was a plus size heroine who would be okay with her size, but, instead, Elisa hates herself for it, yet refuses to do anything about it, taking a sort of perverse comfort in not trying, because she doesn't think she could live up to Alodia anyway. She does, through the course of the story, lose some of the weight, though she never becomes slender. With the loss of weight, her sense of self improves, and she looks at her previous clothing and deems it a tent, judging her former self. If she doesn't have sympathy for herself, why should I? She does sort of comes to term with her size, whatever it may be, to some degree later, I felt, but only because she found a boy she knew would love her no matter what she weighed. Again, I would really like this to come from inside. Maybe I'm being too picky because something about her narration just grates on me, but this is how I felt.

Pretty much the only thing I like about her in those first couple of chapters is how she wishes for an old, ugly husband or one with pock marks, even if it is so he won't be disappointed in her. Of course, what she actually gets is the most beautiful man she's ever seen, King Alejandro. For all that she hates how attractive she is, she kind of swoons all over him for a while, falling prey to his charms without really knowing anything about him.

I will give Elisa this, though. When the chips are down, she usually steps up. In quiet moments and social situations, she feels awkward and comforts herself with food and hatred of herself and others. In the midst of adventure, her mettle shows through. I like that Elisa so much better, and, thankfully, she comes to the forefront as the novel progresses. Even at the end, though, there's something about her that just grates, though I can't put my finger on precisely what. Oh, and I know this isn't a smooth transition but this thought doesn't merit a full paragraph, I could have done without a full chapter that kept mentioning how she'd pissed herself. Mentioning it once is good enough; I can remember it happened without constant descriptions of the acrid smell, okay?

Anyway, moving on to religion, Elisa happens to be the bearer of the Godstone, the Chosen One. This sounds really exciting and comes with some nice bling (a big jewel in her belly that appeared when she was a baby), but mostly just means she has to pray a lot and likely eventually give her life in service. For those that don't know, I am not religious, but I did minor in theology, so I do have some tolerance for religious discussions. I do not, however, generally like it to be a main theme in my novels. Sure, this religion has been made up, but aren't they all? The constant praying and such just wears on me. Again, this is my own issue, and other readers obviously weren't bothered, but, for those who are sensitive to such things, be forewarned.

As far as the other characters go, I really wasn't interested in most of them. The only female character I like is the prickly Cosmé. I appreciate her candor and her refusal to pretend to like people when she doesn't. Alejandro, Elisa's hottie husband, is incredibly weak and pathetic. He just bores me to tears. Hector, his man-at-arms, hasn't been given a ton of personality yet, but fits into the same archetype as the heroes from Grave Mercy and Touch of Power, so I like him thus far. Humberto, Cosmé brother is a sweetheart and reminds me a lot of a puppy. Rosario, Alejandro's son, actually was one of my favorite characters. He already has way more sense than his father.

The best thing about the novel, what really saved it from being all the way down in the 'didn't like it' end of my rating scale is that Carson does do some surprising things. While much of the book did feel unoriginal, she throws in some genuine twists. She's not afraid to hurt her characters, and I love that in an author. I hope she continues to take the plot in somewhat surprising directions.

I will be listening to Crown of Embers shortly, and I hope I like Elisa a bit better in that installment. I've seen The Girl of Fire and Thorns compared to Kristin Cashore's novels or Maria V. Snyder's and so far, I don't see it, but I'm going to give the series another shot.

Rating: 2.5/5

Jennifer Ikeda's narration fits the story very well. She has a gift for accents, which helps keep the characters clear and separate in my mind. The voices she gave suited the characters well, and at no time did her narration make me roll my eyes. Her tone suited Elisa quite well, I felt. Her voice was an easy one to pay attention to.

Rating: 4/5

Audio or Print?:
In this case, the audio worked much better for me, since I really liked Ikeda's narration. This made me try to think more kindly on Elisa, although obviously that was only somewhat successful.

Overall Rating: 3/5

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Blogger Kayla Beck said...

I only read part of the review because I wanted to read this someday, but I have a question now. Is Elisa a treasure troll? You know what? You don't have to answer that - if you have a jewel in your belly that is not attached to a piercing, you are a treasure troll. That is why she is chubby. I refuse to believe otherwise. :-D

October 18, 2012 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I still haven't read this one, even though I have ARCs of both. #oops I just haven't been in the mood for a high fantasy. But I don't think either of your main issues with the book should annoy me - I hosted an interview with Rae Carson for her blog your and she said she liked to write heroines who overcome physical obstacles, so knowing that I think I can stomach her self pity and such...hopefully lol

October 18, 2012 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

OH MY GOODNESS. Elisa IS a treasure troll. She's even roly-poly! I may die of laughter. LOLOLOLOL.

October 18, 2012 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Well, I knew about it this second time around and she still irritated me. I think there must just be something about Elisa that irks me irrespective of her whininess. I don't know. I'm really curious to see how I feel in Crown of Embers.

October 18, 2012 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Wendy Darling said...

Hah hah hah, I was going to leave a real comment, but I am too distracted by Kayla's comment to think clearly. HILARIOUS.

I have to admit, I stopped reading this book after the first couple of chapters. I just couldn't get into the writing style and I had a problem connecting with Elisa--and then I read some negative reviews, which might've been a mistake. People do love this one, though, our giveaway for the two books was our most popular one yet!

Four stars from you is pretty awesome, though.

October 18, 2012 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Right? She's SO RIGHT.

Ha, that's what I should have done the first time. I just feel like I should like this book, but I just don't seem to.

Four stars for the narration. 2.5 for the story, grudgingly. 3 overall for the audio.

October 18, 2012 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Kayla Beck said...

I'm right, I'm right! *dances* Elisa

October 18, 2012 at 6:35 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

I am constantly hearing amazing things about this series but I had a feeling that it wasn't going to be for me. I'm happy that you just made me much more confident in my decision. I think I would have a big issue with how weight was handled in it (touchy subject for me) and I am with you on the grounds of how could we feel bad for her if she doesn't. Great thorough review. Sorry it wasn't better for you the second time around.

October 18, 2012 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

It's a bit of a touchy subject for me as well. Elisa's attitude just drove me crazy.

Actually, this WAS a bit better. O_O

October 19, 2012 at 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Christina Kit. said...

Too bad you didn't enjoy it. Elisa was an unlikable character at first, but she grows so much I ended up loving her.

The religious part didn't affect me, it's kinda linked up to fantasy and supernatural powers, so it's not as theoretical as it could have been.

October 31, 2012 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

She does get better, but, you know, even after the next book which I did enjoy quite a bit, I just don't love Elisa. She still sort of annoys me. I don't think I'll ever love her, but I came to like the series more, so oh well!

November 1, 2012 at 3:20 PM  

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