Review originally posted here
.Why I Read It:
This book has been receiving a ton of good reviews. The review that pushed me over the fence and convinced me that I *had* to read this book was Shara's (from Calico Reaction
) which you can read here
. She just GUSHED and compared it to some authors I really enjoy. For some reason I put it off until now though; I picked this up just last week when I was at the library and flew through it.
This book does so many things right. I really, really enjoyed it.
What I loved most? Elisa. Seriously, what a fantastic character. She's overweight and insecure, but she never lets it bring her down. Carson treads this really fine line: Elisa could have very easily come across a whiny and helpless character, but she never does. When she talks about her weight (she's a plus-sized heroine), she mostly does it in a self-deprecating way, so that instead of coming across as whiny, she's funny, albeit in a very sad way. She's assertive and quick-thinking, but not so much that it appears unrealistic next to her insecurities. She's a perfect balance of vulnerability and capability, and I was in awe that Carson was able to do this so well.
The issue of Elisa's weight is brought up a lot among readers and reviewers. Elisa loses a considerably amount of weight 1/3 (I think?) of the way through the book, and it's shortly after she realizes she's lost this weight that she takes on a leadership role and really embraces her role as a heroine. Some people see all this as a problematic, but me? I didn't at all. Elisa loses weight under very realistic circumstances -- in fact, it would have been UNrealistic if she hadn't lost any weight. And she doesn't become this bombshell overnight either; the descriptions are kind of vague, but I was under the impression that she was still curvy -- she was just thinner than she once was.
The rest of the characters rest in all kinds of shades of grey as well: Elisa's husband Alejandro is at first described as being handsome and kind and all-around nice guy (despite some of his indiscretions, like his mistress); he's later shone in a much less positive light, but he never becomes WHOLLY unlikable or villainous, even when he does some asshole-y things. Carson once again walked this fine line and never devolved into tropes or triteness. The best character development though was with Cosme, and her relationship to Elisa. That girl is ruthless, and she stays that way until the very end, but watching her and Elisa grow into friendship was awesome and had me feeling all kinds of warm and fuzzies.
The world-building was also top-notch. Some readers/reviewers had issues with the depiction of the world's religion, but I didn't at all. People felt the religion of Elisa's world resembled Christianity too much, and that this story was a veiled Christian parable or something. I'm an atheist through-and-through and I had no issues with the religion or Elisa's piousness, though obviously your mileage may vary. Elisa's doubts her faith a lot throughout the course of the story, and we're shown characters who believe in the same God as Elisa, but do bad things with the excuse that they're acting on His behalf. So I don't think the story is trying to glorify or preach Judeo-Christian teachings, but I don't doubt the religion in the story takes its roots from real-life Christianity. Anyway, my point is that I had no problems with Elisa finding strength through the convictions of her faith -- it makes sense that someone with the Godstone would be so pious, and ultimately, Elisa succeeds because she has faith in HERSELF and not God alone. I think that's important, and I think the text supports that this is important.
The last thing I want to talk about, without going into too much detail because it's very spoilery, is the love triangle in this story -- or lack thereof. I'm not going to say more than that, but I was very impressed (and saddened -- in a good way!) with how Carson handled the potential love triangle in this book. It was GUTSY.Final Verdict:
This fantasy debut was fantastic, and I think any Fantasy fan should check it out. Please don't let the fact that it's YA deter you: there are no YA trends to be found in this book at all (NO LOVE TRIANGLE!). I loved the heroine Elisa to death; she's smart and extremely capable, but equally vulnerable. The issue of her weight also makes her very relatable. It's a well-realized world, and while some people were uncomfortable with the similarities to Judeo-Christianity, I had no issues (though your mileage may vary.) Highly recommended, and I can't wait for the rest of the trilogy. :)