Bingo Square: And So It Begins
I remember reading multiple positive reviews of this years ago, and yet I somehow never quite got around to it. I think when it originally came out, I was reading YA but I was trying not to overindulge in it, and it wasn’t one that people continued to talk about even years later like the Lainie Taylor novels or Lunar Chronicles or others. And really, this novel was quite good so I am glad I finally added it to my list!
Elisa is the novel’s narrator, and she has been raised with the knowledge that she is the Chosen One of her generation. Every hundred years or so, one child is chosen by God and marked with a blue stone in its navel as the Chosen One. These Chosen Ones have a special task to complete in their life time though it is not always very clear what that task will be, and sometimes, history has not captured that generation’s Chosen One or their acts, or the Chosen One died before completing the task. There is very little direction in the religious texts and historical texts, but Elisa knows many of them die young. Compared to many other YA novels, Elisa is a much more pious and religiously oriented heroine but it makes sense given the concept of the Chosen One within this universe. While I am not very religious or spiritual, I did not mind reading about Elisa’s devotion, and she was a different and welcome approach to the usual YA heroine.
Elisa is timid and shy, she loves to eat and has a body that shows it, and she is not the type of heroine that could fight her way out of a situation. However, she is also incredibly loyal, inspires great loyalty in those that know her best, kind-hearted, fair minded and intelligent. She is the younger princess, and the novel begins when she is married off to the king of a neighboring country on her 16th birthday. She struggles with finding her place in the new court, but gains the respect of some important people in the palace during various situations where she is tested. While she might not be a social butterfly, when she is thrust into certain situations, she keeps a level head, and makes intelligent decisions.
Leaving her father’s court gives her an opportunity to learn new perspectives on her status as Chosen One and provides her access to more texts that she had not seen before allowing her to learn more of her potential purpose. However, when she is kidnapped, Elisa finally has a chance to truly grow into herself, and develop into the leader she needs to be to serve as queen and fulfill her mission as the Chosen One.
Being a YA novel, Carson includes an obligatory love triangle, with both men having very different aspects and appeals to Elisa. However, she does something rather unexpected in her handling of the triangle which I quite appreciated it, and it never takes the spotlight of the narrative – the purpose is always Elisa’s status as a leader and Chosen One, not simply her romantic life. I read the entire trilogy in a two days in mid June so I don’t want to get too much further into the details because they are slightly hazy, and I don’t want to accidentally let any of the plot development of the later novels influence what I say. However, the trilogy as a whole holds up, so I feel comfortable recommending this novel since the follow ups will not be a let down. Also, I felt like these countries had a slightly Spanish influenced vibe to them based on the descriptions of food and some of the religious aspects reminding me of Catholicism. I thought that was a nice touch compared to the slightly British fantasy settings that seem more typical.
Bingo Square: And So It Begins