Lets get real for a second; the majority of books that claim to have a love triangle in fact don’t. The majority of the time what they actually have is a love arrow. Let’s take the Twilight Series for example; the three players are Edward, Bella, and Jacob. In the story Edward and Jacob both like Bella and she eventually chooses Edward. However, this is a love arrow, not a triangle. To progress toward being a true love triangle requires Edward to love Bella, Bella to love Jacob, and Jacob to love Edward. And as we all know that is not what happens. I think we can now see why love triangles are not as easy to pull off. Such a plot tool usually requires a confusion of identity or someone to be homosexual, but it’s almost exclusively an attribute of a comedy.
Here in The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson we will find a decent example of a “love arrow”.
Elisa is the second princess. Her older sister is everything her father wanted: beautiful, smart, charismatic, and a prime candidate for a future ruler. Elisa on the other hand is overweight, shy, and prefers to have little to do with the politics involved in ruling a country. But Elisa is the bearer of the Godstone, a symbol of an individual chosen by God to perform a great work. However, this is an honor that only happens once every century. Elisa has little idea of what this actually means for her, but there are many who do know the significance of the Godstone and will do anything to acquire it. When she turns sixteen and is secretly wed to a king of another country she begins to realize just how important she is, and she will have to make a decision of how far she is willing to go to uncover her true nature and protect those she has come to love.
To be honest, I didn’t expect much from this book. I had read the description and I thought it sounded just like so many other fantasy books: female protagonist, doesn’t know her full potential, has mysterious unknown powers, and is the underdog who rises to meet the obstacles that confront her. But fortunately to my surprise, there was much more than just that.
The story was well written, creative, and imaginative. I am wary of any book with a strong religious property as I have seen too many lost to didacticism while trying such a method. Rae Carson does an excellent job of keeping religion distant enough so as to avoid creating an allegory or moral while incorporating the devotion and following of God as a major element. The fantastical nature of the story assisted in cleaving the gap between religion and fiction. Overall, in a word, I was impressed.
I was also impressed with the world construction in this book. Carson has created a new world, a new culture, and a new religion based on those found in modern times. It was not quite as well rounded as some, but she filled in the gaps with relations to the real world. However, this is both a pro and a con. By making her new world more relatable to our own it becomes easy for the audience to relate to the story and the characters. On the other hand a world that has been well rounded and formed, that has reinvented everything necessary to make up a new and different world than our own, is like a lens for readers to look in and imagine that such a place exists.
This is a feminist story, but in a way that shows equality and not female superiority. Elisa isn’t the hero who can do all things nor the girl who, despite all odds being against her, overcomes every obstacles she’s faced. She is the girl who can get things done only with the help of many other people. She relies on those around her, male and female, to the same degree that others rely on her. For girls who may feel that they’re struggling with their identity, they may find a bit of themselves in Elisa. She isn’t anything special in the beginning, but like all of us she sought out and found a purpose for herself in the world. Though boys may not like reading about a female character as much, this is a coming of age story that I think would benefit both genders. Sometimes we all get a little lost in finding a purpose in the world, and this book may be the kick-starter some people could use in giving their dreams and goals another chance.