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all hearthfires & holocausts

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The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson This was one of those books I have a hard time rating, simply because some elements were very well done, and others very poorly done.The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the story of Elisa, princess to the country of Oravalle and bearer of the Godstone, a jewel implanted in her navel that signifies she is marked by god as one who will do a Service. Elisa has no idea what her Service will be, and can't imagine herself ever being useful to her country. She is merely the overweight, shy younger daughter of the King, overshadowed in every way by her cunning and charming sister. Her life consists of reading and eating... until she is forced to marry the King of the neighboring country in order to strengthen their alliance and build a greater army against their common enemy: the Invierne. What follows is her transformation from dispassionate, useless girl to a hero.In theory, anyway.Though the writing and premise was strong and engaging, the entire novel was nearly ruined for me by the protagonist's personality in the first two-thirds of the book. While I do give credit to Carson for creating a main character who is not slender and beautiful and lusted after by every male in the story, I wish she had made Elisa stronger. I could relate at times to her emotional overeating and her feelings of unworthiness, but it was overdone to the point of annoyance. Elisa's weight and relationship with food should not have taken the place of personality, but it was nearly all we got. Though Elisa did eventually become a strong character, the fact that it was not until she'd lost weight was offensive, in my opinion. She was educated and knowledgeable in war time strategy, could she not have been a strong force from the beginning? I understand character arcs, but her weight loss through wandering the desert for days with injuries and little food as the catalyst for her transformation was insulting. And frankly, though I am not one to believe that young people are so impressionable that books could sway them in a negative direction, I think this book sends the wrong message to young girls.However, if you are looking for a good fantasy read, I do see potential in the series moving forward. By the end of the book, Elisa had developed into a strong, mostly likable character. And though there are two more books in the series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns was a complete story, with few lingering threads at its end. 2.5 stars, rounding up to three in good faith for the rest of the series.