Review | Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

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—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the 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 become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And 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.

I really wanted to love Of Fire and Stars; after all, it’s a fantasy story with a f/f romance (pitched as a hate-to-love, my absolute favourite kind) at its centre. Unfortunately, that’s one of the only aspects of the story that I actually liked.

The world of Of Fire and Stars was incredibly intriguing, but not well-fleshed out. The system of magic is elemental in nature, but not much detail was provided as to how the magic actually works nor why certain countries are opposed to its use. Likewise, the political landscape was not well defined: marriages were arranged for diplomatic purposes, with no mention of why it was crucial for these alliances to be formed.

The characters, themselves, were bland, immature, and lacked depth. They were either the “good” one or the “rebellious” one; this absolutism made them feel incredibly one-dimensional. They also all had names that I just could not remember – aside from Mare, whose name I could not take seriously given her love for horses.

The romance was the only slightly redeeming feature of Of Fire and Stars. Though it was much more sudden and with much less “hate” than anticipated, I enjoyed seeing the progression from mutual dislike to friendship to love. I also appreciated how accepting the world was of homosexuality and bisexuality, although this did make the “forbidden” aspect of the relationship feel much more contrived.

Overall, Of Fire and Stars had incredible promise but poor execution. I’m glad that I read it if only to support more LGBTQIA+ in fantasy, but I doubt that I will read the inevitable sequel.

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