The Girl of Fire and Thorns Series Reread

Hey everyone!  Part of the reason I haven’t been updating lately is because I’ve been rereading one of my favorite fantasy series, a series I did reviews on a few years ago.  But now that I’ve finished the series in anticipation of the upcoming standalone 4th novel, I thought I’d kind of post about this series.

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If you have not read this highly engrossing series by Rae Carson and you enjoy Sarah J. Maas books, I implore you to check this out.  If it hadn’t been for this series, I would not have discovered my own love for high fantasy.

The basic gist of this that we follow Princess Elisa of Orovalle.  On her 16th birthday, she’s married off to the much older (about 10 years or so older) King Alejandro of Joya d’Arena, a neighboring kingdom.  But Elisa is different from other princesses–she’s been chosen by God to have a special destiny and there’s a pulsing, living gemstone in her bellybutton prove it.  She’s been married off to Alejandro with the hope that she can help save his kingdom from the attacking Inviernos, who are determined to destroy not only Joya d’Arena, but also Orovalle if given the chance.  Initially just a pawn, Elisa grows into her new role and becomes a formidable leader in her own right.

And all of that is just book one, like the first half.  I dare not tell you what else happens because the surprise is half the fun.

This series is beautiful for so many reasons and I don’t think it gets enough credit anymore because it has been out for close to a decade now.

Part of its beauty comes from Elisa’s transformation.  In the beginning, she’s the last person you’d ever expect to choose as a new queen–and she knows it.  Her self-confidence is non-existent.  But as the story goes on, we see her start to believe in herself as she’s forced to either stand her ground.  And it’s so empowering to read, especially as we see others not believing in her and she continues to believe she knows what’s best for herself.

But what’s also beautiful about this is the struggle.  The conflicts come from every angle, from every side.  Elisa is never truly given respite from it all and these challenges help to show who she’s become.  Each one helps forge Elisa into a stronger person and I love that.

Truly, if you like the way Maas crafts a fantasy story, you’ll enjoy this.  And these books are shorter while not skimping on the details.

The stories are clever, the characters are charming, and the writing is ace.  I feel like I’ve fallen headlong into the stories every time I start reading them.  They’re perfection.

And they give me faith.  Elisa was so sure she knew exactly what her life was going to be like and then there are all these challenges that came her way that made her an even better, stronger person than she was before.  That transformation always hits hard, no matter how old I get.

It’s beautiful.  It’s suspenseful.  It’s sad at times.  But it shows strength in its purest sense, a strength that comes from who you are rather than from exerting power over another person.  I love that.

Top Ten Books That Changed My Life

Hey everyone!  So there was this thing on Twitter last week about YA authors talking about finding your own story.  And, one thing led to another in my brain, and I was thinking about books that have made me look at the world differently.  I’m not necessarily going to be talking about book series that I obsessed over or that are some giant awesome fandom.  I’m going to be talking a lot about YA books that made me realize things about life.  They’re the books I probably can’t stop thinking about.

While this is obviously a little more on the personal side for me, I hope that you find something here that can/has changed your life.

Oh, and if you’re worried about these all being heavy tear-jerkers, they’re not.  Some are quite light and/or funny.  That doesn’t mean they can’t be life changing too.

Top Ten Books That Changed My Life

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1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first.  I can’t even pretend that Harry Potter was not the most significant series in my entire life.  It was one of the earliest chapter books I can remember reading as a kid with my mom.  On top of that, there were all those themes about overcoming corruption and what it means to be a friend and the dangers of prejudice (mudbloods, etc.).  There is so much about life layered away in those books that I think I would be failing as a blogger if I didn’t include it.

2. Stolen: A Letter to my Captor by Lucy Christopher

This is not a widely known story, and I think that’s part of the reason it’s so life changing.  Written as a letter from a girl to her kidnapper, it details everything the girl was thinking and experiencing during her captivity in the Outback of Australia.  Not only is it beautifully written, but it shows us that even though people can be truly horrible and evil, they can have the capacity for goodness…no one’s entirely good or evil.

3. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I can remember reading this in the car on vacation years ago and trying not to let the five other people in the vehicle know that I was crying.  It’s so powerful to watch Sam discover that she’s been living her life all wrong and that she’d missed out on all these amazing people because she was too wrapped up in herself and trying to be cool.  It’s heartbreaking but soooo good.

4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

An interesting choice for this list, to be sure.  But here’s why: Cath is the same shy, quiet, bookish, and occasionally lost girl that I was in college (and still can be today).  She was real.  And the fact that she was introverted and would ask for personal space and whatever else she needed was a revelation.  Everything in romantic comedies and love stories always had everything moving so fast.  When I knew that wasn’t me and that wasn’t how my life would go, I’d feel depressed.  But finding Cath and discovering that relationships can move at whatever pace the couple is ok with…that was life changing.

5. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is completely and totally the reason this book is on the list.  I connected with her self-conscious hopelessness from the very beginning.  She’s forced into a situation where she’s completely out of her element and she’s forced to adapt, even against her will.  Her personal revolution is undeniably inspiring and when you finish reading this book, you feel like you can move mountains too.

6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Whenever I need a tear-jerker, this is my go-to movie AND book.  It’s that ultimate question of what do you live for when it feels like there’s nothing left to live for?  I really like the way the story’s written and its powerful messages of family and love.  I don’t think I will ever recover from this book.  Nor do I want to.

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I teach this book every year, and I have to say it’s just so beautiful.  It’s all about the absolute power of the written word.  It shows the dangers of Nazi Germany and the systemic destruction of “other”.  It shows the pain of loss and the slow growth of hope.  It shows the power of the family you choose to call your own, not the one you were born into.  I just…like I am so in love with this book and its message that I have seriously debated about naming a child of mine Liesl.

8. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

There’s a reason that this is my go-to reread on my shelf.  Yes, I vastly enjoy the romance and the twist on Greek mythology, but it’s more than that.  Stay with me here: I grew up Catholic and I was never quite satisfied with what the afterlife was supposed to look like.  Pearly gates, streets of gold, etc., or an eternity of burning.  That’s it.  I didn’t care for that.  This book was the first book where I actually found a way of talking about life after death in a way that I could get behind.  So whenever I experience loss in my life, this is the first book I go back to because it helps me feel grounded in what I believe.  If that makes me some kind of heretic, then so be it.

9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I mean seriously, could I make this list without this book either?  I’ve legitimately used quotes from this book in college essays.  I’m not joking.  It’s cynical and doesn’t sound like any teenager I’ve ever met in its use of vocabulary or metaphors, but what Gus and Hazel are going through is all too real and shows you just how fragile life can be.  And how powerful love can be, even when it feels finite.  Love is infinite.

10. Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison

This book destroyed me.  It’s very similar in themes to TFioS, but the tone is completely different.  Beth finally starts coming into some confidence and starts to realize her worth, especially as she begins to get close to someone else.  But love is always complicated and things get messy.  It just helps show that sometimes we think we know someone but there’s always more to learn.  And I also really love that music has been twisted into the whole story because music is also a powerful force.

Compare This! The Gold Seer Series vs. Fire and Thorns Series

Hey guys!  So last week’s Compare This! about Sarah J. Maas books was really popular and I had fun with it, so I thought I’d pick another to do!  This time I picked two very awesome series by Rae Carson, The Gold Seer series and the Fire and Thorns series.  So let’s see how they match up!

The Gold Seer Series

VS.

Fire and Thorns Series

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The Gold Seer series

Pros:

  • It’s historical fiction with a fantasy twist, which is awesome.  For those who get bored reading simple historical fictions, Lee’s power to “feel” where gold is gives an added excitement to the story.  And if you are into historical stories, this has many truths to the Gold Rush.
  • The danger/suspense feels super real.  Lee is running from a murderer intent on using her powers for his own gain.  You feel this danger throughout the entire series, even as the villain changes.
  • The characters are awesome.  Lee starts off the series as a runaway but she soon finds a quirky bunch to hang out with and, while she can’t trust everyone, she starts to find herself a new family.
  • The love story is subtle.  It’s a slow build and, in a world of YA books that have couples falling madly in love in 3 days, this was different.
  • The stories are clever.  Even when you can kind of predict what’s going to happen by the end, you can’t always figure out how it happens.

Cons:

  • I thought Lee’s magic could have been used more in the series.  At times, it felt more like it was there in name but not actually present in the story.  It was almost just a side note.
  • Lee was sometimes forgettable.  Her personality can be a bit bland at times and it’s sometimes hard to find something to dig your teeth into about her.  (Um…that went from zero to vampire real quick…my apologies.)
  • The large cast of characters sometimes makes it difficult to remember who is who, where they’re supposed to be, and what they’re supposed to be doing.  The cast is so big there’s actually a list of who everyone is in each book to help keep everyone straight.

 

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Fire and Thorns series

Pros:

  • It’s completely a fantasy story, so there are new kingdoms, magical powers, strange enemies, etc.  And the world building for it is excellent.
  • Elisa is an unlikely heroine.  When we first meet her, she’s getting secretly wed to a king she doesn’t know.  She’s mousy, terrified, and legitimately fat (which she admits because eating is a coping mechanism for her).  But she undergoes a massive amount of character development throughout the series and it’s amazing.
  • The books grip you quickly and you’ll soon find that you’ve been reading for eight hours and maybe didn’t even stop to eat.  Or you continued reading while you ate.  It’s that good.
  • This also had a slow-build romance, one that will actually take you by surprise but also not.  If that makes sense.
  • I don’t have a better way to explain it than this, but this series is ballsy.  There are many twists you never see coming because it goes places books don’t normally go.  And I loved that.
  • It’s actually an uplifting story for some of the strangest reasons, but all of us have been Elisa at some point (she’s scared, self-deprecating, and doesn’t usually know what to do).  So watching her transform really makes you feel like you transformed too.

Cons:

  • I felt the series started to lose power by the last book.  The first two were just so powerful as Elisa learned to navigate her new world and powers, and when she finally has it figured out, it then lacked some of the excitement I was drawn to.
  • I thought the last book also became predictable and didn’t take as many chances as the first two books.  Not that I didn’t still enjoy it, but you want the series to end on a high note, right?  And for me, this wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

 

My Winner: Fire and Thorns series

Why?  Look, I’ve come to love high fantasy series and this was the series that did it for me.  I was completely blown away by Elisa and her friends.  Every book played out like a movie in my head and I just wanted more and more and more.  All the time.  I’ve read the books maybe twice and I can almost paint the scenes that I can see in my head because they are that vivid, even after all this time.  It’s inventive, creative, and so much fun to read.  Seriously, you will not see some of the twists coming.

And while historical fiction is probably my real wheelhouse, I just couldn’t pick it over the story that showed me how amazing fantasy can be.  The Gold Seer series is still really good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just not as good as Carson’s first series.

Did I make the right choice?  What do you think of these series?  Any recommendations on what I should compare next?  Leave a comment below!