Published by HarperCollins on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
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An atmospheric and romantic debut fantasy perfect for fans of Ash and The Winner’s Curse.
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 kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden.
Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom 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, 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, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—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.
Let’s start with the positive: there’s an LGBT romance. And also there’s… er, nope, sorry, that’s all I got for you.
Of Fire and Stars is a mind-numbingly generic YA fantasy novel, and the attempts to spice it up with a lesbian romance just don’t work. Take that aspect out and you are left with nonexistent world-building, poorly-developed characters, immature writing and just extreme boredom. If you’ve read a few fantasy novels, this one adds absolutely nothing but paper to the pile.
In this book, Denna is betrothed to Prince Thandi of Mynaria. She arrives in Mynaria, determined to marry the prince and guard her secret fire magic from this kingdom that – for no apparent reason – despises magic, but she soon finds herself falling for the sister of her future husband. That would be Mare, lover of horses (yes, I’m serious).
There is absolutely no set-up or world-building – we are thrown completely into this situation with no knowledge of the land or world we are in, no understanding of the political and cultural landscape, no understanding of the magic system or why the Mynarians hate magic. At times, the book felt very juvenile, written for an audience that presumably doesn’t care about world details or character development. The lack of any depth throughout simply made it uninteresting.
And very little actually happens. If you are put off by YA fantasies that spend too long talking about pretty dresses and palaces, then this one should put you to sleep. Most of Denna and Mare’s story features them horse riding, learning about the horses, and not really doing anything. When we’re not focusing on their snoozeworthy antics, we have to listen to councils (i.e. the adults) being unbelievably obtuse.
Both the characters and the relationships were one-dimensional. Denna is, without question, the “good girl” and Mare is the fiery and quick-tempered one. And on that latter note, Mare is so so annoying. Once again I felt like I was in a very juvenile story when Mare throws her shoes at doors and makes rude faces behind people’s backs. She’s eighteen, by the way, not twelve.
“Fine,” the liegeman said. “See that you do.” He turned on his heel and walked away.
I made a rude face at the liegeman’s retreating backside.
The whole book is silly and ill-conceived. Without getting into spoilers, there were so many ludicrous moments when the adults of the novel behaved like clueless sheep, when supposedly trained guards stood around twiddling their thumbs while shit went down, and nothing was happening so the author killed off another side character who we obviously didn’t give a damn about because they weren’t given a personality.
The romance is undoubtedly the best part. It’s a slow-building climb from disdain to friendship to love. But even that is marred by some poor plot choices on the author’s part. This is a world that seems to readily accept homosexual and bisexual relationships. It seems pretty commonplace, even. And yet, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Denna and Mare spend too long completely adamant that they are definitely, absolutely just friends. And then that they definitely, absolutely cannot be together. Perhaps there was a good reason for this, but it was not explained well – I felt like their refusal to be together was contrived plot angst, rather than arising from a legitimate concern.
I’m sorry to say it, as this was one of my most anticipated reads of this year, but Of Fire and Stars is neither thought-provoking nor entertaining.