I was fortunate enough to read an ARC of this book several months ago. I had complained to my editor, "I just haven't read anything recently that I really fell in love with," and she sent this book over. As it turns out, it was a good call, because I loved it. Here's the cover copy:
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.
I don't always gravitate toward high fantasy (although perhaps I just haven't read enough of it), but I really enjoyed this book. First of all, the main character, Elisa, was well-rounded and interesting. She transforms from an uncertain girl with low self-esteem to a strong woman who knows who she is, and I loved watching her change. Sometimes I got annoyed with her, but I think that's the mark of a good character--you don't always like them, just like you don't always like your friends or your family or your peers, but you do always root for them.
I also thought the world was really interesting, especially what the author did with religion. It's unique and fascinating. I feel like I should say that if the word "religion" makes you feel squicky, I understand how that feels (I've felt that way at certain points in my life, and still do sometimes), but I encourage you to approach this book with an open mind. The religion is essential to the plot, and therefore doesn't feel tacked on in a preachy way. Really, the book is also about Elisa figuring out what she thinks and believes apart from what she's been told by others, which I think is something everyone can identify with.
Carson also isn't afraid to dive into the uglier aspects of a dangerous world, something I always appreciate, because the ugliness makes the world feel real, and the situation, dire. And Elisa, who has both fantasy-world problems and teenage girl problems, feels real within that world.
Basically: there are powerful characters and an engaging plot and a well-crafted world in this book, and it came out today, so if it sounds intriguing to you, go forth and read!