Think your parents, teachers, boss have high expectations of you? Doing well in your classes, showing up for work on time, being nice to your little brother (or sister)... This is nothing compared to what's expected of Princess Elisa, the main character of Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns.
Princess Elisa is born with a magical gemstone in her navel, a sign prophecized to mean its bearer is destined for greatness. But Elisa--lazy, whiny, and completely naive about the world outside the palace walls--doesn't feel very heroic. In fact, the most daring deed she's ever performed is to sneak into the palace kitchens to steal pastries. Then on her sixteenth birthday, she is secretly married off to a neighboring king as part of a political contract between the two kingdoms. Her new husband hopes she will be instrumental in an upcoming war. Then shortly after the wedding, Elisa is kidnapped by a band of rebels who live deep within the desert. These people hope that, as the Chosen One, Elisa can save them. But how can Elisa help anyone when she can't even find the courage to help herself?
Girl of Fire and Thorns is an absorbing fantasy-adventure and a great coming-of-age story. Throughout the course of the story, Elisa does a lot of growing up, and it's refreshing to see her transformation from a spoiled princess to a courageous young woman. This is only the first in the planned trilogy, so there's more to come. If you enjoy books by Tamora Pierce and Alison Croggon, you'll like Girl of Fire and Thorns. --AJB