Monday, November 21, 2016

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst {review}

Of Fire and Stars
by Audrey Coulthurst
♦publisher: Balzer & Bray
♦release date: November 22, 2016
♦hardcover, 400 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
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.

Review: After starting out loving this one, by the end I came away with some pretty mixed feelings.

Both Denna and Mare were characters I really enjoyed. Denna is this sheltered out-of-place princess with a life-threatening secret and a desire to prove her worth in her new kingdom. Mare is such a wild child without a shred of care for what people think of her or expect of her, and a completely justified chip on her shoulder from years of being treated like her word was worth less than her younger brother's. From the time they meet, you see them go from spite to tolerating eachother, to trust and friendship, to desire, and finally realizing they've fallen in love. I liked that Mare showed so much doubt in Denna's feelings for her even after they'd been together, as a result of being surrounded by people who didn't show any confidence or belief in her. It made complete sense and I felt for her, even while being frustrated with her! I liked that Mare's confidence sparked bravery in Denna and slowly pulls her out of her sheltered box. Denna has it so ingrained in her that duty comes first that she makes some pretty selfish decisions, but she makes it back to the right ones in the end.  I also really loved that the LGBT aspect of this story was not written as an "issue". No one was shocked, it wasn't something they were hiding (well, not because of that, anyway). They, and many others in the story loved who they loved and it was the most natural thing in the world. As it should be--but this is one of the few stories that I've seen treat it that way and I loved that.

But romance aside, the rest of the storyline was very political and I found that part to be a bit boring. A lot of meetings of the directorates and talk of joining kingdoms and who is planning to attack who. For me, this dragged and I found myself putting the book down a lot during these parts.  The magical side of the story was interersting but not really fleshed out enough and same went for the different kingdoms and elemental gods they worshiped. I definitely wanted to know more about Zumordia, too!

One thing that I really didn't like about this one stood out quite a bit to me. Yes, the story of Denna and Mare was enchanting and sweet and a beautiful story of love between two young women.  But as a very stark contrast, almost every male in the story was a complete jerk. There is one, Mare's best friend, Nils, who was funny and charming and such a great friend to her, but even he was a bit of a womanizer. The king and the prince were just condescending and dismissive and bordering on cruel. It seemed like the one good and kind man in the story dies in the first few chapters.

The story picks up pace near the end, but also gets a bit rushed. There were some plot leads that fall off and get swept aside for an easy and obvious sort of ending and there's a bit of villanous monologuing. It was still pretty exciting and definitely an HEA. Not a read I regret, but definitely not one I loved as much as I'd hoped I would.


Audrey Coulthurst writes YA books that tend to involve magic, horses, and kissing the wrong people. Her debut novel, Of Fire and Stars, will be published on November 22, 2016 by Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. When she’s not dreaming up new stories, she can usually be found painting, singing, or on the back of a horse.

Audrey has a Master’s in Writing from Portland State University, is a member of SCBWI, and studied with Malinda Lo as a 2013 Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow. She lives in Santa Monica, California.


Purchase the book:   Indiebound   •   BookDepository   •   Amazon


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