From the Amazon description for the UK version:
Princess Elisa is a disappointment to her people. Although she bears the Godstone in her navel, a sign that she has been chosen for an act of heroism, they see her as lazy and useless and fat.
On her sixteenth birthday, she is bartered off in royal marriage and shipped away to a kingdom in turmoil, where her much-older and extremely beautiful husband refuses to acknowledge her as his wife. Devastated, Elisa decides to take charge of her fate and learn what it means to bear the Godstone. As an invading army threatens to destroy her new home, and everyone at court maneuvers to take advantage of the young princess, Elisa becomes convinced that, not only is her own life in danger, the whole world needs saving. But how can a young girl who has never ridden horseback, never played the game of politics, and never attained the love of a man save the world? Elisa can't be sure, but she must try to uncover the Godstone's secret history before the enemy steals the destiny nestled in her core.
I actually had a kind of cool advantage with this book. Even more so than having snagged an ARC. In May of 2010, at WisCon, I got to hear Rae read the first chapter. It was her first ever reading (though you'd never have known!) and from her voice, I picked up the tone of the story. (I mean, it shines through loud and clear when you read it anyway, but still . . . ) So while I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, I got to hear Rae's voice in my head. Which, yes, could be kind of weird--except I love Rae so much that it was SPLENDID! The pacing between the words. The pronunciations. The . . . everything.
Rae Carson was in. my. head.
And I loved it.
(PS Rae if you're reading this, I hope I'm not creeping you out too much . . . )
The book is full of beautiful language, which moves the story forward at a pace quick enough to have you flipping pages at paper cut-inducing rates, but slow enough to let you really take it all in. The action is nonstop. Character growth is evident on almost every single page, and it's all interspersed with conflict on a both fluid AND jarring levels. (Trust me, fluid and jarring do too go together here. You'll see.)
So then, we're moving along at this already fabulous pace . . . and KA-POW. The end of Part I reaches out and sucker punches you. Trust me. Like the book even needed to get more exciting. But it does. By, like, a zillion percent.
My eyes looked like this : O.O
I can't say much more about that without giving anything away, but dayum.
I think I've said before, I'm not a huge setting description kind of person. But The Girl of Fire and Thorns converted me. Elisa travels all over the place. Sometimes willingly, others not. But there's not a step she takes in which I couldn't picture her location with complete precision. And I wanted more. Rae's words weave up and around you until you feel your feet taking Elisa's steps. Your eyes taking in Elisa's sights. I'm not sure I've ever read anything that's pulled me in this way. (Oh, and while we're on the topic of Elisa--you don't need to look any further for a strong female MC. She's brave and smart and just all around spectacular.)
Another thing I don't do much of, is read a book with the actual craft of writing in mind. I mean, I could do it--but really, I just like to get lost in books. And I did get lost in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. But it's one of those books that sticks with you. For days. And at some point during one of those afterdays, I realized that as a writer I could learn a LOT from Rae's craft. You'll see, when you read the story, that every single thing in The Girl of Fire and Thorns has a specific place and purpose. Not that you'll notice while reading, because the writing's so smooth . . . And the subplots. Oh, the subplots. They're threaded together so seamlessly you almost forget they're there. Almost. But afterward? You'll realize that each and every one of those things builds and builds and builds into something much BIGGER, with way more relevance than you'd ever expect.
And to that, I say: BOO-YAH. Well played, Rae Carson.
You can WIN an ARC of The Girl of Fire and Thorns HERE.
Visit Rae's website HERE.
And Rae's on twitter, too :-) @raecarson
OH! And you should pre-order Rae's book HERE. or HERE.
Peace out, home slices.