The Girl of Fire and Thorns completely blew me away. Strong character development, a suspenseful and thrilling plot and wonderful world-building combined to make a story I fell in love with.At first, Elisa was not an easy character to love; she was a young and naive girl, content with being sheltered from court politics and current affairs in order to study the history of other Godstone bearers in the hopes of being better prepared for her destiny of service. Self-conscious of her bulging figure and terrified of the unknown, she was quite self-deprecating. She turned to food for comfort, especially when she realized her new husband was merely humouring her while secretly coveting another. But after being forced to move a month's journey from her homeland, after being taken into captivity by a group of people determined for her to be their saviour, and then choosing to rise above it all, Elisa became a heroine to be proud of. Her growth was staggering in measure, but gradual in nature considering it spans months of trials and tribulations, of heartache and pain. By the end of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa was eager to offer counsel, eager to jump into a leadership role, decisive in the face of her husband's indecisiveness and more terrified then ever, yet finally unafraid to act.The secondary characters in The Girl of Fire and Thorns were just that - secondary - but their importance to the plot and Elisa's maturity were irrefutable. She was able to realize her initial feelings for Alejandro were childish, after her experiences with Humberto. She learned that Hector's coldness was his attempt to mask his feelings, after her experiences with Cosme. She was only able to piece together the history of the Godstones because of the various priests who helped provide different parts of the puzzle. She was forced to grow up because those around her expected nothing less. Each character brought something to the table that Elisa needed - whether it was moral support, an encouraging smile or a kick in the ass. While none of them truly stood out in a specific or memorable fashion, I did find myself growing fond of many of them. And without each one of them, I can't imagine the plot having flowed nearly as smoothly.And what a plot it was! Deception, betrayal, lies, secrets, action, suspense, romance - The Girl of Fire and Thorns had it all! I was completely captivated from the first page, thanks to Carson's attention to detail. I was on sensory overload with sights, sounds - even tastes! - brought to life through Elisa's experiences. The religious mythos that Carson created was layered and complex, adding a depth and richness that I found addictive. Even the pacing was phenomenal - starting off slow, and gradually building into a crescendo of twists and turns that left me breathless!If you haven't already figured it out, I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns! My expectations of a chubby girl spouting off religious propaganda were blown out of the water as I was lucky enough to experience a unique and intriguing religious mythos through an intelligent and confident heroine.