Saturday, 18 February 2012

Coconut cakes, Godstones and Lord Hector, oh my (a review of Girl of Fire and Thorns)

My Mind Stops Here via A Looking Glass Girl
I started trapeze classes a couple of weeks ago, and something that has become clear to me is that upper-arm strength is kind-of-a-must for flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Apparently, a girl can't just go from doing nothing but typing, reading books and lifting coffee cups to hanging in mid-air by a rope and her arms, ya know?

And to be honest, I think it's all Mulan's fault. She makes it look so easy to go from being a totally clumsy book nerd to running marathons, doing karate kicks in the sky and then climbing a huge wooden pole to fetch an arrow.

'I'll make a man (mer-man! meerrrr-man! There's so a Mulan/Zoolander mash-up just waiting to happen) out of you' should be sued for deceiving a generation of impressionable youngsters.

(Minor spoilers ahead)

What I'm trying to say is, when Eliza, the heroine of Rae Carson's super-fantastic (that's the technical term) Girl of Fire and Thorns is forced to march through a really big desert having previously done nothing but read and eat coconut cakes? I felt her pain (yes, I am comparing a bit of arm pain with being made to walk through a big stinking desert, what of it?).

I was totally feeling her throughout the rest of the book, too. Girl has some tough breaks. Eliza is bearer of the Godstone, which means that she is going to perform some big service for her people. It sort of feels a bit like ... 

The bit about Harry being the Chosen One, not the bit about Ron ... moving on ...

But Eliza's also a princess, younger sister to a ridiculously over-achieving heir to the throne, secretly married ... and morbidly obese. Combined with all that she's just been forced to leave her country to settle in her new husband's kingdom.

Let's be honest here. I was fan-girling over Eliza. I loved her from the beginning, when she took charge of a situation (you'll know it when you get to it) that her husband (metaphorically) ran squealing from. And she continues to take charge throughout the book.

And while I had a minor quibble with the book in that some of the characters felt flat, too obviously convenient plot devices, Eliza felt real from the first page. I even wanted to call in sick so I could finish the book. I didn't (#goodgirlsyndrome), but damn, I wanted to. She's stubborn, and thoughtful, and strong, and you just know she'd be up for a late-night sleepover.

She'd be a total catch as a friend, you know what I'm saying?

So sure, a couple of the characters felt a bit flat. But by the end of the book, I was having major-swoon syndrome for a character (SPOILERS: Hector) who only appeared for a small section of the book (HE RECOGNISED HER FROM BEHIND. You'll know when you get to this point). To make me care so much for a character with not that many words to his name? That's quality writing.

If I was going to say anything else to convince you to read this book, I would tell you that for me, Rae Carson now falls in the pantheon of awesome-female-centric-fantasy writers, like Kristen Cashore, Sherwood Smith, Robin McKinley, Ellen Kushner, Juliet Marillier, etc. etc. with awesome female characters. There's only one more thing that needs to be said.

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