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First off, the protagonist is an overweight sixteen-year old girl. At first I wondered if she was an unreliable narrator and was just curvy. But as the story progresses, you realize that she really is overweight. The final nail in that coffin being a very humiliating social event.
But rising from this unlikable characteristic (Hey... I'm overweight, but how many heroes have fifty extra pounds outside of the man with the elves and a red suit?), Rae Carson gives her protagonist the very likable features of being intelligent and kind. You like her, especially since the opening dilemma has her in a real pickle. But her intelligence is hobbled by... um... that's a bit of a spoiler.
Throughout the whole book, Rae Carson has believable characters and throws in a host of plot twists that keep the reader guessing. I was really surprised with the whole plot and delighted in each twist and turn.
It was really hard for me to find something I didn't like about The Girl of Fire and Thorns. And for a debut novel, that's saying something.
If I had to pick something I didn't like, I guess it would have to be the bait Rae Carson drops that hints at a sci-fi thread, a la Orson Scott Card's, Memory of Earth. If she hoped to avoid the sci-fi aspects, she did it perfectly, since there was enough bait to pique my interest. But it made me VERY curious and didn't deliver. If she answers it in a later book, it'll be a big payoff.
And that's not bad.
Wait... I did have one other gripe. They throw bird seed at the weddings.
We know the disastrous effects of throwing rice at weddings now, but would a fantasy culture go to the extreme of collecting weed seeds for birds? As a YA book, it was a nice little education for kids, but for an adult, it made me wonder.
Either way, it wasn't a serious detractor from the book. I still loved it.
If you're looking for a good YA fantasy, you'll love The Girl of Fire and Thorns. With it's great characters, food, and scenery, the story fairly leaps out of the book.
Rae Carson is definitely one to watch.