The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson

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Greenwillow, 2012. ISBN 978-0062026507
The crown of embers by Rae Carson. Gollancz, 2012. 978-0575099197.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. The girl of fire and thorns was awarded 2012 ALA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults and the Andre Norton Award Nominee for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (2011). The second in the series The crown of embers is equally as good. This is quality fantasy with an inspiring heroine, adventure, romance and angst, all of which are sure to appeal to teens.
Although Elisa has the Godstone, a symbol of the Chosen one, she feels inadequate. Things change when she is betrothed to marry a king from a neighbouring kingdom. She is overweight and has used food as her solace, but when she arrives at the kingdom of her husband Alejandro she discovers that she has the strength to become a worthy person. Kidnapped by revolutionaries, she shows determination and strength to survive a long trip across the desert, only to find her enemies very close by and very dangerous. In the second book The crown of embers, Elisa, now queen, has to find her way through court intrigues and the desire of her advisors to marry her advantageously.
Although the action is compelling and the adventure gripping, it is the coming of age of Elisa that kept me reading avidly. She is such a courageous heroine, who doesn't appreciate her own good qualities, but who meets the demands of every dangerous happening, be it her own kidnapping or her capture by an evil sorcerer. The characters surrounding her are brave and intelligent too. The romance in both books is compelling but not overwhelming.
I loved these two books for their complexity, wonderful characters and many thought provoking layers. Readers who enjoyed Melina Marchetta's Lumatere chronicles or Juliet Marillier's Seven Waters series will be delighted with this series.
Pat Pledger