Elisa was born to a king and on her naming day, God marked her as his chosen one by shining a light from heaven on her and placing a Godstone in her navel. It warms when she prays, goes ice cold to warn her of danger, and predicts that she will someday accomplish some great task. Now, Elisa, 16, is to wed a stranger, the king of a Joya d'Arena, and to take with her only two servants, leaving everything she knows behind her. She is not confident, not ambitious, not beautiful--she loves food overmuch, drowns her insecurities in eating, and describes herself as fat. Her new husband, though, is stunning, and he's kind to her, but clearly, it's not exactly love at first sight for him, and when they arrive at his palace, it becomes clear to Elisa that he hasn't told anyone about having wed, and that he has no intention of immediately introducing her as his wife, the Queen. Elisa is just starting to settle into her role--as a VIP guest in the palace, studying the people around her, learning about an impending war with Invierne, a strange country across the desert. Then she's kidnapped, taken from her bedroom and forced to march across the desert, sweating and struggling and fed on starvation rations, to the furthest reaches of Joya d'Arena where the people are already at war with Invierne, where villages are already burning at the hands of the animaguses that head the Invierne armies.
I liked this book. I zipped through it in half a day, and enjoyed it while I did so. I actually liked the religious aspect, and what was so very interesting was that everyone in these lands had actual proof of God. Every century, one person was marked with a Godstone. And yet, still, there are different sects, the kingdom of Orovalle having formed by the Via Reformas when they decided that Joya d'Arena was not stringent enough in their worship, was not interpreting God's words correctly. And still, people in Joya d'Arena didn't fill their places of worship and were falling away from their faith. But it's not a question. When things come together miraculously, it's beautiful, but not surprising, because there is absolutely a God making everything possible.
I liked Elisa. I appreciated her transformation, and I appreciated that she was always intelligent, always studious. I liked the romances, and, although there were few fully developed characters, I very much appreciated Cosme and Rosario. I'd like to see more, and am extremely interested in the possibility that the gaps in the record of Godstone bearers were actually because Godstones were being given to Inviernos, when it seemed very much in this book that God was on the side of the Joya d'Arenas. I'd like to see Invierne, and I hope that there will be a second book, and that there will be an explanation of the quest for a seaport, of the animaguses and their Godstones.