Author: Audrey Coulthurst
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy
Source: Balzer + Bray via Edelweiss
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.Review by Nara
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.
I think the main draw of Of Fire and Stars for me was the premise of the romance, as I'm sure it must have been for a lot of people. And I think the romance was definitely one of the better aspects of the novel. It was pretty refreshing; it's not too often that you see LGBT couples in high fantasy, especially not as the two main protagonists.
Unfortunately, the romance was overshadowed in part by a fairly generic plot, along with a lot of stupidly unrealistic plot holes. For example, literally all of the figures of authority were complete idiots. There's a character who dies pretty early on, and instead of investigating the death they're all like, yeah whatever, I'm sure it's fine. And just assume it's a particular group responsible without looking at how this person was assassinated and with what tool. Also, I think one of the things I most disliked was that the ending was not conclusive. I'm not sure whether the author was leaving it open so that she could write a sequel, but if it's a standalone, I am certainly not satisfied.
I have to say, the world building was quite terrible. Throughout the novel, I didn't feel like I had a good understanding of the land they're in. The religion was quite poorly defined and the magic system was fairly substandard (for example, compared to the beautiful complexity of Sanderson's systems). It just seemed like not a lot of thought had been put into making a richly developed world; instead there was only the bare bones of a fantasy world, with the focus being more on the plot.
Character development also could have been better. The characterisation of our two main characters Denna and Mare were done very well, and you could definitely see the various motivations and conflicts behind their actions. On the other hand almost all of the secondary characters were flat, especially the prince Thandi- you kind of don't know anything about him apart from the fact that he's the prince and good looking and that he doesn't bother to get to know Denna properly. I mean, I thought he was a relatively major character, but I guess not.
Overall, the book was held up by the two main characters and the romance. While the world building and plot were weak, I think if you're looking for a lighter novel or if you don't really read high fantasy, it might be worth giving the book a read.
World Building: 1.5/5