"When Papa dies, she will be queen of Orovalle. She wants to rule and I do not, so it is ironic that by marrying King Alejandro, I will be queen of a country twice as large, twice as rich. I don’t know why I am the one marrying. Surely Joya d’Arena’s king would have chosen the beautiful daughter, the queenly one. My mouth freezes, midchew, as I realize that he probably did.
I am the counteroffer." - Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson
|Fire and Thorns #1|
Greenwillow Press September 2011
16 year old Elise is the first bearer of the Godstone in over a century. A direct link to their god, the Bearer is said to have a great and mystical destiny- if only she can figure out what it is. After being married in secret to King Alejandro to cement a war-time alliance, Elise discovers that she’s not to be welcomed into Joya d’Arena as the new queen, but merely the neighboring visiting princess. War threatens from every angle, and when Elise starts to trust her intelligence in her new land, she is kidnapped by insurgents who think the Bearer can save their people from destruction from the invaders. Through it all, Elise has to learn to trust herself and use her cleverness in order to outwit everyone in order to do what is best for the land.
What makes Elise truly unique in female hero literature (sheroes books, via Tamera Pierce) is not that she has a divine destiny, but really her battle with self-esteem and her weight. Coddled and pampered for the beginning of her life, she starts out unsure of herself, her purpose, and is what we would call today morbidly obese and an emotional eater. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s extremely common no matter what your weight- have that craving for chocolate when you’re stressed? Emotional eating. The problem comes when you act upon it, and act upon it in abundance. More info here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/MH00025)
If Elise’s upset, if she’s nervous, if she’s bored, she eats, even though the food doesn’t have any taste. Carson describes how Elise tears the seams of her wedding dress, then heads to the kitchen to indulge in pastries. She gorges during her wedding feast because she doesn’t know what to say. When Elisa arrives in Joya d’Arena, none of the clothes available even come close to fitting her; she then goes down to breakfast and feasts through the buffet even though things are a blur. It’s not until Elise is kidnapped and she can’t rely on those physical comforts that she starts to turn things around. We see bits in the beginning- saving her maid and the Prince’s life during an attack, and showing her intelligence throughout her time in Joya d’Arena, but she really doesn’t come into herself until she loses the food crutch.
Once she does, she blossoms. She falls in love that is worthy of her, proves herself to be as daring and courageous as anyone could want in a girl power book. And while she does lose a substantial amount of weight (forced off through a diet of rat stew and desert rations), Carson makes sure to point out that Elise will never attain the slimness of others that was held up to her (as is to teen and adults today) as the ideal.
"I am not even close to thin. Certainly not beautiful like Alodia or Cosmé. But I don’t have to part my breasts or press into my stomach to see my Godstone. I still crave honey pastries, by my head doesn’t pound to think of them. I can walk all day without getting a rash.
I can walk all day.
I lie back in the water and float, smiling up at sparkling stalactites, at shafts of aquamarine light that pour through clefts in the rock. When Cosmé returns to fetch me, I tell her I need more time.
I’m not done being naked." - Rae Carson
The Girl of Fire and Thorns ends in a nail biter that I’m not going to reveal (massive spoilers, sweetie!), but sets up the second in the series, The Crown of Embers (coming out September 18), wonderfully. I’d recommend Girl of Fire and Thorns to anyone who loves the works of Tamera Pierce and Kristin Cashore, and readers who devoured books like Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman.
Be sure to check out some of our other posts on our ongoing discussion on Teens and Obesity in Teen Fiction: