ARC Review: Of Fire and Stars

Of Fire and StarsOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Of Fire and Stars started off good, you know – a fantasy continent of kingdoms, with two faith systems, one religious and one magic, but both interconnected, and one of our heroines (who has magic) being married into the religious kingdom. Denna has been brought up to get married to the prince of Mynaria and be its Queen, but after she arrives in the kingdom, her magic starts flaring up. Coupled with that, there are magical attacks happening in the kingdom, and a member of the royal family gets targeted. In the midst of it, she starts to fall for the prince’s sister. You know, with such a good set-up in place, the execution was lackluster.

I liked the characters of Denna and Mare, two very different kind of princesses, but regal in their own right. Denna is the proper lady, brought up to be the refined Queen, while Mare, despite being the oldest is relegated to being a political piece. At first, they don’t get along but when forced to teach handling horses to Denna, Mare starts to appreciate her. It also helped that the prince was not much interested in his betrothed, and preferred to keep her out of political matters. Their love story was a slow burn but Denna’s insistence on doing her duty was putting the brakes on the relationship. Like, there was such a simple loophole that could have been used, but wasn’t, instead letting them both sneak around guiltily.

Now, as for the world-building, that is where this book suffered. The kingdoms are vague and the politics confusing; I really didn’t understand how they could wage a war just like that, without any proof or attempts to negotiate. Half the time they were doing nothing, just discussing in council. Also, the alliance with Denna’s kingdom seemed unequal, since so much power was being given to Mynaria as to effectively control a place of worship in that kingdom. Also, that earlier loophole I mentioned? Why can’t Denna’s parents intervene? Honestly, it felt like there were only things added to add length to the plot, without any solid reason for it being there.

Finally, I would like to say that I appreciate the fact that there is more queer representation in fantasy genres (finally!). Really, the love story is probably the best part about this book. If only more attention had been paid to the world, as well.

Received a free galley from Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss.

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