Yet another book that caused me to burn the midnight oil. I swear, somewhere out there is a really bad book, and one of these days I’m going to read it. And I’ll finally be able to get some sleep.
This was an odd read for me, because there were some aspects of this book that I unequivocally adored. And yet there were some aspects that sort of didn’t work for me. Fortunately for me, the good parts outweighed the parts I had doubts about, leading to an epic and entertaining read.
I like Elisa. She’s a bit weak in the beginning, but only because she’s so insecure. This could be grating– I tend to get impatient with heroines like this– but she remains sympathetic. And she toughens up fast. I loved the person Elisa grew to be, how she strengthened. At the beginning she was coddled, overweight and lazy. She was an insecure girl who ate for comfort. But once she’s forced out on her own and shoved into difficult situations, she blossoms. She’s smart, and she uses her wits at opportune moments. She grows in courage and most of all confidence.
The plot almost threatens to lag at times, but just when I think it, it whirls forward. There is a lot of action and a lot of movement. The plotting is intricate, the political maneuvering is fascinating, and I was completely caught up in the world Rae Carson created. When they talk about good world-building in fantasy, they mean this. Every detail is fully realized. The almost-Spanish setting really works for me. It was like reading an alternate history of Isabel de Castilla or something, if Fernando had been useless and there was magic.
Those were all the things I liked. Those were the most important things, what kept me reading, what assured I will pick up the sequel (I want to know what happens! I want more Rosario! Hector! Cosmé! But like I said, I did have some problems. The romance, to me, seemed to come out of nowhere. I would have appreciated a bit more development there. But oh, my, does it certainly lead to something powerful.
Now, the truly sticky part. The Godstones, the central mythology of the book. I have conflicting feelings about them. Now, I’m not a religious person, so I can’t speak from that perspective. I do like books that deal with religion, as long as God’s power isn’t the crux of the plot or the solution to their problems (see: Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian). The Chosen One trope is a bit tired, but I’m not tired of it. This didn’t feel like a retread of anything I’d read. It was unique, and there are parts of the magic of this world that were really interesting. I didn’t like how she derives power in her Godstone by praying. I did like that in the end, God’s power wasn’t the ultimate savior– it was Elisa’s wits. Sort of.
I LOVE how brutal and brave Carson was regarding the fates of her characters. She has no mercy. People die. Important people. People you LOVE and IT HURTS MY GOD IT HURTS THE FEELS WHY GOD WHY. It’s strange. Some of the characters don’t feel so real to me, and others I love passionately. Hector is TREMENDOUS. I hardly have words to describe him. And Elisa proves to be a worthy heroine.
Like I said, some quibbles regarding the central Godstone mythology, but the quality of the lyrical prose and the plot overrode those. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel sometime soon.