Vacation is over and I’m finally free to read again! In between job hunting, that is, but definitely look forward to move book reviews and blog posts!
Title: Of Fire and Stars
Author: Audrey Coulthurst
Page Count: 389
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Original Publication Date: 2016
Genre(s): Young adult, Fantasy, LGBT
Since her childhood, it has been decided that Princess Dennaleia would grow up to marry the Prince of Mynaria, Thandilimon. When’s she’s 16 years old, Denna finally travels to Mynaria to meet Prince Thandi and grow accustomed to her new home, leading up to her marriage. In between writing letters, attending poetry readings, and making friends with all the lords and ladies, Denna must learn to ride in order to marry Price Thandi. Unfortunately, her riding instructor, Princess Amaranthine, is not too fond of her. And what’s worse is that her Affinity for fire, a magic she’s been told to smother, seems more uncontrollable in her new homeland.
Princess Amaranthine, or Mare, does not want to be a princess, nor does she want anything to do with being a royal family member at all. She would rather spend her days in the stables. That is, until she’s forced to give riding lessons to Princes Dennaleia, whom she can’t stand. But when death starts to befall members of Mare’s family, Denna seems to be one of the only people in Mynaria that actually listens to Mare, and her feelings start to change drastically.
I’ve been dying to read this novel since receiving it in my OwlCrate box last year. A fairytale where the princess and another princess fall in love? What a great concept! Unfortunately, I was a bit let down, and it seems like a lot of other readers were, too.
The novel is told in alternating perspectives between Denna and Mare’s POV. From the beginning, we’re not given much character development, so it’s hard to tell the two’s voices apart. Yes, the chapter’s are distinguished by one girl’s name or the other, but that’s about the only indication. As the novel progresses, though, it becomes easier to tell the difference between the girls and their characters begin to shine through a bit more.
A big issue many readers had with this story is lack of worldbuilding, and I’d have to agree to an extent. There’s a map in the beginning of the book, which helps, and there are brief descriptions of the different regions, but overall I though the worldbuilding was lackluster. With fantasy and sci-fi especially, you really have to build an intricate, detailed world to carry your story. Something like Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings are examples to live by. Of course, Of Fire and Stars is much, much, much shorter, but still, there needed to be a bit more added to this aspect.
The story was quite slow at first, and kind of uninteresting, but it does pick up and turn into a heart-pounding adventure, especially towards the end. I actually tore through the last 100 pages with urgency, which was a nice contrast to the slow climb of the beginning. There is a bit of mystery to the novel, which helps push the story along, too. I’m proud to say I pretty much nailed the culprit.
Like I said, it’s a little hard to differentiate Denna and Mare at first, but it gets better. I could relate to Denna easily and enjoyed reading from her perspective. I like Mare a little less, but she grew on me.
It’s no spoiler that the two girls fall in love — that’s the premise of the whole book. But that romance doesn’t come cheap — you gotta read quite a few pages before getting to the good stuff. That didn’t bother me, actually; it felt realistic. I’m not a fan of insta-love. I enjoy a slow-burning romance and I liked that Coulthurst built their relationship over the course of the novel.
What really bugged me was how unintelligent many of the characters were. The Directorate was full of numskulls who are supposed to keep the kingdom safe. They seemed rash and immature. Mare, at 18 years old, also seemed a bit childish. Denna, 2 years younger, was written far more maturely than Mare, which was odd to me.
The writing wasn’t bad. The dialogue was pretty believable and entertaining. Some of the character development could have been better, and I’d say Coulthurst needs to work on her worldbuilding a bit, but that’s about all the complaint you’ll get out of me. It’s not a bad read whatsoever, but definitely don’t get your hopes up. This was my beach read this year and I’m fairly happy with that choice.