Carson does a great job of portraying religion, even a religion possibly linked to technology (there are hints that the people arrived on their planet, like on Pern). Some aspects are tangible; Elisa really does have a Godstone in her navel, and it responds to her surroundings and her prayers. But various groups have vastly different interpretations of what God wants; different versions of the sacred texts are passionately defended. Several times the point is made that many people seem to have very firm ideas on what God wants or dislikes, while Elisa herself with her living link can't fathom what her purpose or goals should be. I should do a list of SF that handles religion well; this book, Sharon Shinn's Samaria books, Peter Dickinson's Blue Hawk, any others?
Elisa also grows and changes throughout the book; at the start she despises herself for her lack of ambition and assertiveness, but slowly she learns to act in accordance with her values. She saves the life of her prince, she searches for the information others try to hide, and she refuses to show fear before her enemies. Maybe I'll now try to get the hard copy for X to read; I bet he'd love it but the book disappears from my NOOK tomorrow.
Speaking of my NOOK, I went shopping at B&N last weekend and drooled over the forbidden fruit (see TBR Dare on the challenges link). I went so far as to offer to buy X a NOOK for himself just because I had a really good coupon. X, annoyed that I was talking to him when he was trying to read a book, told me it was unnecessary. Well, guess who just discovered that the library has Dresden Chronicle ebooks available immediately (unlike the paper versions, which have long hold lists)? Guess who has STOLEN MY NOOK to read them. Humph. Now guess who's coupon expired yesterday? Guess who will have to wait for his birthday now?