Ok, having given it some more thought, I give it about 3.5 stars, because despite its various issues, I was so engrossed in the world Carson created it was hard to put the book down. THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS was overall a good story! At 16 years old, Princess Elisa has just been married off to the widowed King, Alejandro of a neighboring kingdom, upon an agreement between the king and her father. But, Elisa is not just any ordinary princess, she’s also the Bearer of the Godstone-- a precious stone (amped with guiding powers) embedded in her naval, of which she was ordained by God. Because she’s the Bearer, she also has divine orders to fulfill her service to her people, though she doesn’t exactly knows what that all entails. Yet. However, there are many who view the Bearer-- well her Godstone at least--as a valuable asset, putting Elisa in unsuspecting danger. Through her unpopularity among her subjects and ignorance of what her destiny could mean for her, she finds herself in the middle of helping her people succeed in a war lead by adversaries of evil sorcery. People see the Bearer as their hope. Elisa is trying to find a way for their hope not to be in vain. There are great things about this book. I quite enjoyed the story telling. It was absorbing and detailed in a way that wasn’t overwhelming and clutter-y. I had a hard time putting the book down because the story was genuinely interesting, and unique. Though, I should point out that I haven’t read many books about monarchies and fantasy adventure, so I was delightedly intrigued by such elements. Aside from her self-image issues, I found Elisa to be a female protagonist who is genuinely ambitious about becoming a strong heroine, and is already in some ways. Despite all her practical inexperience she’s always striving to take initiative in asserting herself accordingly in her new role as a Queen and striving to complete her destiny as Bearer. She also has a way of assuming her queenly role by destroying her adversaries—literally and figuratively—with poise and grace, using their own tricks and attitudes against them. I also found her quite witty on occasion. Even, when her subjects are unaware of her status, she didn’t let that hinder her attempts to garner their respect and put her best foot forward. Slowly but surely she grows in this book and I sense she will only improve throughout the rest of the series. The biggest issue I have with this book is the author’s portrayal of the heroine’s self-image issues regarding her weight, Elisa’s eating habits and self-deprecation…I can’t lie and say her gluttony with food, at least in the way it was written, didn’t bother me. Like a lot. Elisa is always gorging on food, unless food isn’t within immediate reach. She’s so gluttonous with it that many times I found myself uncomfortable reading it. There are a couple of occasions where she eats until her stomach is in pain because she’s too full. I get it, she’s an emotional eater, but what’s up with her constant ire about her weight then? Surely she must know eating as much as she does and the type of food she does, without any active lifestyle, is going to make her gain weight which she will have trouble losing? I don’t know if it’s just me being weird but its occurrence in the novel was really distracting and didn’t seem to fit in context seamlessly. Whenever Elisa would mention food and her admiration for it, it almost seemed as if it came out of left field in a way. The fact is, it would have been really awesome if the heroine was a curvy young girl who may have had either a few insecurities regarding her weight, but come to accept and appreciate her curves by the end, or was one who loved her curves and food from the start. I feel like the in the way that Carson wrote it, it doesn’t encourage a positive message for those who are insecure about their weight by its conclusion. I almost feel that people who can recall having similar internal feelings or identify with the attitudes/behavior of Elisa, will grow to resent her throughout the book somewhat. Furthermore, I hated Elisa’s constant moaning about her unattractiveness and ineptitude, perceived and “realized”. She doesn't see herself clearly, and though these are her main issues, I think Carson, may have written it so jarringly that is may make many readers lose sight of the mostly positive qualities that Elisa does have.I should also mention that the love stories were a total bust. That sh*t was whack! No lie, y’all! There will be no swooning to be had when reading about either of the two love interests. Which would be refreshing for this YA novel, if a romance wasn’t a selling point for it. Quite honestly, it doesn’t even need romance to be a part of its allure, at least not in book one; and it’s because of this realization that the ending wasn’t an issue for me. I liked that Carson added a cultural perspective to this novel. While reading, many of the cultural aspects of the book seemed relative to Hispanic/Latino culture: the dark color of their skin, the names of people, objects, and other references. Which is why I am happy to know they changed the book cover. The cover of my ARC wasn’t representative of Elisa; it has a skinny fair-skinned girl in a purple dress on the cover. She looks like a brunette White girl, not like an ethnic minority. Why does having a curvy ethnic girl on the cover of a YA kill its potential to sell? That makes me really sad. Sigh. I also appreciated Carson’s ability to include facets of Christianity without making it political or overwhelmingly forced fed to the reader. It was a nicely done take on a people’s religious beliefs and sense of duty. THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS is by Rae Carson and is the first installment of a Fantasy trilogy. Its publication date set for September 2011.