First thing, this book had the unfortunate luck of being my current read when every possible shit hit every identifiable fan in my vicinity. Which is the real reason why it took me nearly a week to finish Rae Carson's debut novel. Those 6 reading days doesn't speak my lack of enthusiasm and/or enjoyment over GoFaT (Hah! I can imagine Elisa loving that acronym), no.
This is someone's debut NOVEL.
Once you've read this book, let that thought sink in… and buy a tub of ice cream to soothe the feelings of ineptitude.
Suddenly I just don't feel like making my measly contribution to mankind.
We follow the travels of Elisa, the princess of Orovalle, who was chosen by God to bear the Godstone… in her navel (*snickers*). What this entails is quite unclear, save for a generic "chosen to accomplish great feats for her country". For Elisa, it seems like it starts with getting married off to the king of the besieged neighboring country of Joya for political reasons. It's quite evident what King Alejandro is getting out of the deal, but what Elisa or Orovalle benefits from this agreement is quite a puzzle (and still is).
I think my early discontent was borne out of expecting a full fantasy novel when this came across more of a historical book set in an alternate, sandy universe. The courtly intrigue, the mysteries… it all brought back Grave Mercy memories, which are not exactly very pleasant for me. What I did find interesting was taking some religious concepts and giving it a fantasy treatment without losing touch with the basic tenets of organized religion: scriptures and the previous "chosen ones" who have written them, the celebration of mass and the rituals enfolded in it and the concept of an all-seeing God. Whenever Elisa feels troubled, she needs only pray and the Godstone warms and her prayers are answered, sometimes immediately, sometimes in an indirect manner.
It was fascinating without being offensive or pushing any agenda. It read like a historical fantasy novel.
I have been forewarned to be patient with Elisa because I think the general consensus is she's not very likable in Part I. I don't know if it was because I was prepared for it, but I didn't really find her annoying that much. This was told in her POV and she did have this habit of comparing her every decision, her every perspective to that of her sister, Alodia. I was concerned this was going to be that book that will try to win me over by giving the heroine a weight problem, self-esteem issues and an alleged sob-story from an unreliable, biased source. It took a bit of getting used to but eventually I grew to like her better for it because it stood like a milestone marker, the one that you look back to when you get to Part III and realize how much she has grown to a much complex and dynamic character, making Elisa one of my most favorite heroines in this genre.
I didn't need faith in God so much as I needed faith in myself.
She's like my Khaleesi and Oprah all rolled into one!
The story is deceptively paced rather sluggishly making my mind easily distracted by threads 90-pages long. But I never really felt like giving up on the story. There was enough interest to make me plough through, the direction had a vibe of unpredictability that made me always curious enough. Like a bigger story was marinating… calmly promising to detonate that burst of flavor in the right, proper moment.
And when it did, it certainly didn't disappoint.
Do I talk about the romance? The doucheass that was Alejandro? That WTF moment that took me by surprise because a) I was surprised that I could still be surprised what with all the express fangirling over a different guy and b) because WHY Rae Carson?! WHY?!?!?!
No. Because it is enough of a physical pain for me to delay reading the second and third books much less recall all the other reasons why I loved this so much.
There's just too many.