This gave me hope that YA novels with actual worldbuilding, rather than idiotic high-concept premises, have not yet been banned, but might make a resurgence.

Girl of Fire and Thorns is set in a very nicely worked out high fantasy world with a Spanish-based culture and tons of atmospheric details. The food is particularly believable and mouthwatering, and even plays into the plot: the heroine is both a foodie and a compulsive eater. The novel plays with a number of standard fantasy and YA tropes - the Chosen One, the love triangle, the makeover, the well-meaning kidnapper, the faithful old nanny - and subverts all of them to at least some degree, though some more than others.

Princess Elisa was chosen by God and has a magic gem embedded in her navel. This means that she is destined to perform some act of great service. Unfortunately, no one knows what it's supposed to be. Apart from that, she lives in the shadow of her apparently perfect older sister, eats compulsively to feel better, and is depressed because she's fat. In chapter one, she's perfunctorily married off to a handsome young king... who is a widower with a young son. Elisa obediently goes off to his kingdom, where she promptly gets embroiled in the ongoing war.

That covers the first few chapters. I'll give my general reaction here, because a lot of what I have to say is spoilery. Though I had some reservations, this was overall good-to-excellent. The worldbuilding was excellent. The food porn was excellent. I liked Elisa and several of the supporting characters. I liked that Elisa had relationships with other women (that didn't involve fighting over guys), and that she had relationships that were more about character than about hitting plot points. Some of the subversive elements were spectacularly subversive. Generally, highly enjoyable.

Minor and thematic spoilers: Read more... )

Major spoilers: Read more... )

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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