Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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The Girl of Fire and Thorns
by Rae Carson

★★★★☆

2011 • 423 pages • Greenwillow Books

Previously, on the Literary Omnivore, I asked where God and organized religion was in speculative fiction. (Okay, I asked “Where is the God in fantasy”, but tomato, tohmato.) When speculative fiction deals with gods and goddesses, it often does so in objective terms—one cannot dispute the existence of the Valar, for instance, in Middle-Earth. But Throne of the Crescent Moon shows characters actively struggling with and practicing their faith in a world where the divine is not objective, and it gave me a taste for more. But where to start?

Book blogger Samantha of A Musical Feast came to my rescue with a recommendation of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I’ve known of Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy for a while, in that I used to spend many a shift at the bookstore in the young adult nook and they were in there. They looked like young adult fantasy (which is no slam, but just rarely distinctive enough to grab me), which is why it took Samantha mentioning that it’s actively based on medieval Spain and Spanish Catholicism for me to put it on hold at the library.

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Review: Burn

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Burn
by Elissa Sussman

★★★½☆

2016 • 272 pages • Greenwillow Books

I am very weirdly proud of my local library for carrying both Elissa Sussman’s Stray and Burn. I may have mentioned that my local library has the lackadaisical policy of never really circulating books back to their libraries of origin when holds crisscross this fair island, which means that I get to see what my neighbors are reading. (This is how I know that I managed to get somebody else hooked on Ōoku, because they are way ahead of me!) While I’m not as familiar with their young adult selection as I was of the public library I volunteered for in my teens, I am nonetheless very happy to see some feminist-minded fantasy young adult novels mixed in with more traditional fare. The teenagers of Brooklyn deserve Elissa Sussman’s books!

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Review: Stray

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Stray
by Elissa Sussman

★★★★½

2014 • 384 pages • Greenwillow Books

As we established in Friday’s interview with author Elissa Sussman, I’ve been following Stray’s journey as a book for a good long time. But in the context of this summer’s Maleficent, which managed to sneak an utterly radical feminist message by cunningly disguising itself as a hot mess of a movie, Stray feels both timely and desperately, gaspingly long-awaited.

Stray is the story of Princess Aislynn. Like all aristocratic girls in her culture, Aislynn is attending school in order to make her a graceful lady for her future husband and keep her firmly on the Path. The Path, a very thorough and strict set of teachings, accepted behaviors, and expectations for women, purports to protect women from their inherent magic, putting them under the protection of their male guardians. Aislynn, however, has trouble controlling her magic, and when her debut is ruined by a burst of magic, she is promptly Redirected: her “loving heart” is removed and she is sent off to become a fairy godmother, a ladies’ servant meant to serve as a living warning to aristocratic girls. Aislynn is assigned to the monarch princess, but the small freedoms she enjoys as a fairy godmother begin to make her realize that the Path may not be the only way to live.

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