The story starts with Elisa’s arranged marriage to someone she has never met before. A handsome, but mysterious king who is slightly older, with a son and some secrets and flaws to boot. Their marriage is fast and she is whisked away to his own country where she is kept secret as his wife and the Queen. At first, Elisa is the kind of character you root for because nothing else really goes right for her. By her own admission – and that of others – she’s fat. She’s not beautiful. She sweats a lot. She’s clumsy and spoilt and uses food to quench her emotions. As a reader, I want her husband to SEE her as his Queen and not as a trade or a friend. I want her to start to have confidence in herself and find the answers she truly seeks. Because while she might be fat and pretty useless in terms of heroism, at first, she is the bearer of the Godstone – a gem grown into her stomach from an early age by God. She doesn’t know why she has it, nor what she’s supposed to do as God’s will with it, but there are people who want it and people who will do anything to protect her.
The book itself is split into three parts. The first part, we get to know Elisa herself and her new surroundings. The second part, Elisa is thrown into a new world where she, realistically and understandingly, stands on her own two feet. Just reading about their travels and adventure had me exhausted. I couldn’t imagine being in that kind of situation, walking for days with only water and barest of food. Especially being overweight and not used to walking much at all. The third part of the book is the war the other two parts have led up to.
There is quite a huge mention of religion and God throughout. It didn’t read like a religious studies lesson to me, in fact, I felt that without it the book would have suffered. It showed how people were willing to do things for their beliefs and also showed that while you have your beliefs, you can also lose faith along the way. We were showered with scenes of character development, beautiful description, entertaining dialogue and, of course, adventure. I constantly flitted back and forth between which path I wanted Elisa to take. Which characters I liked and disliked.
This book will take you on a roller-coaster of emotions. The pacing is great. Just when things are at a nice slowness, something is thrown into the plot to spice it up a bit. While, often I’ll read a book I’d love to step into for a few hours, this was not one of those books. And not because it was written poorly, or about abuse, but because it is set in a world so different from my own, I don’t know how I’d bare it! The kind of feeling I have only comes from Carson’s extraordinary skill in world building. I commend her for it.
I only have a few negatives. Sometimes, a lot of information was thrown at us and we were expected to understand straight away and remember it. Because names of things were so different (places, people, objects), I found myself having to rack my brains and remember what it was describing. Especially when they were referred to by more than one name. It was easier when Elisa herself would reflect internally about information she had learned so we could reflect with her. But other times she didn’t reflect and I would go a few chapters, sometimes more, not really understanding what the big gasp factor was until it came up again. I’m not sure whether this was intentional or not.
All in all I rate this 5 stars. How could I not?! Elisa is a great character. Someone who shines, at first, for the wrong reasons, but then grows up and becomes a hero in her own right. She is a funny girl, brave, flawed, developed. She has to be one of my new favourite female characters of all time. I’m very impressed with the way she was done. Though romance wasn’t at the forefront of this novel, there was definitely some romance there. Three potential guys, each very different, each playing a part in Elisa’s development and maturity. I guess it’s safe to say one guy per story part. I recommend this to all readers who enjoy strong main characters, adventure, excellent world building, and some tragic loss. Bravo, Carson, bravo.