Book Review #3: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Hello Dear Reader!

If you follow me on my Instagram account, you’ll know that I have just recently finished this book a few days ago, and boy did it bring a new reading experience for me. Before we get into the book summary, there will be some minor spoilers. Just wanted to get that in here.

The book summary:

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 nations. 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.

End synopsis, and now that I have read it a second time, I don’t know how I didn’t see the romantic implications between these two princesses. I am actually dumb.

Anyway, on with the review!

Of Fire and Stars is a fantastic fantasy romance novel that takes place in the kingdom of Mynaria, which is famous for its warhorses. Princess Dennaleia of Havement travels to Mynaria to fulfill her duty of becoming the wife of Prince Thandilimon and creating an alliance between the two kingdoms. During her stay, she meets his sister Princess Amaranthine, who is far from the typical image of a proper princess as she spends most of her time tending to the horses and sneaking out of the palace to gather information on the Recusants, a group of magic users who have been fighting on the streets and even attacking those living in the palace. In addition, Princess Denna’s fire affinity becomes harder to control, which would cost her life because magic is looked down upon and viewed as poison in Mynaria.

Now, before I get to the romance part of this book, let’s start with the world.

The world in Of Fire and Stars is really well-written and extremely well-built. Though it took place in the kingdom of Mynaria, I was still able to learn about other kingdoms and areas through characters’ dialogue, which happened seamlessly and smoothly. Mentioning where kingdoms were located, their geographical strengths and weaknesses, their politics, etc. were all purposeful and drove the story further.

Since Coulthurst wrote this book in two first-person points of view—in Denna’s and Mare’s perspectives—she was able to touch upon many locations in Mynaria. For example, Denna spent most of her time in the castle or out on the fields during her riding lessons while Mare spent most of her time in the village outside the castle. The way these two different settings were introduced and fleshed out was also really well done. I could just see the lavish castle and the grimy, violence-filled streets of the village.

The magic system and main religion in Of Fire and Stars are also fantastic. I mention these two together because they are highly intertwined in the story. There are six gods people can worship in the novel, and each god represents one magic affinity a person can have. People can pray to these gods for their own personal needs. In Denna’s case, she prays to them so her fire affinity can be kept at bay so they won’t be discovered. The mention of temples and the way a person with an affinity can be found brings more depth to the world, and I just loved reading everything that it had to offer.

And now for the romance.

I was pretty surprised at who made up the main couple. As I said earlier, I must be really dumb, because I didn’t realize that the back-cover summary was hinting at a romance between our two princesses: Dennaleia and Amaranthine, or Denna and Mare for short. I had never read a story with a couple of the same sex, and I have to say, I’m glad that I was exposed to it through this book, and there’s a main reason why.

Romantic relationships between two people of the same gender in the world of Of Fire and Stars is pretty normal. Mare states in the early pages in the book that she wouldn’t mind marrying a woman, and her best friend and ex—who is a guy—treats it as normal. There is a minor character in the book who is also princess who has a female lover back in her home kingdom. She mentions her parents were against it, not because of the gender of her lover, but because of her low social status. Not to mention Denna was never concerned that she was in love with Mare, who was a girl. All she was ever concerned about was that she loved her and not her brother, the man she was arranged to marry. The same can be said about Mare.

This really helped ease my way into it because same-sex relationships were treated as pretty common, even a societal norm in the book. It made things less awkward for me, and it made the story a lot more enjoyable. I really did enjoy the wholesome relationship between Denna and Mare. With that being said, there is a very, very, very slight NSFW warning from me. It’s not explicit at all, but if you’re not into reading that kind of intimacy like me, it’s literally maybe two to three pages long and can be skimmed over at your preference.

And speaking of Denna and Mare’s relationship, the way it came about was pretty realistic. There was no love at first sight, and at first, the goal was to tolerate each other and eventually become friends. Of course, that doesn’t happen, and through days spending time together during riding lessons and figuring out who’s behind all the Recusant activity, the two princesses become attracted to each other and eventually fall in love. As we all know, relationships aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. No, they are full of bumps and pitfalls, and there were plenty of those in Denna and Mare’s relationship because of who they were and their situation. I mean, when your loved one is pretty much fated to marry your brother, any kind of difficulty is inevitable, and these two powered through all of those obstacles best they could.

Was the ending happy? Yes, but also with a bittersweet tinge as a result of spoilers that I will not divulge in case you want to read it. The ending also sets up a potential sequel pretty nicely, and if there is one out there for this book, I definitely wouldn’t mind reading it.

Now, as fantastic as this book was, there were only two things that threw me off, and they aren’t even major. In fact, this is because of my personal preference and opinion. This book is that well-written. The beginning and the end were a bit rushed for me, but that definitely didn’t take away from the story. I truly enjoyed every page.

Getting to know Denna and Mare’s well-developed personalities, watching their relationship blossom, and solving who was behind all the Recusant activity was an adventure I’m glad I was able to witness.

So, Of Fire and Stars rating:

9/10 and might read again. I really enjoyed reading this balanced book of romance and mystery. If you’re looking for a fantasy romance novel between two drastically different and equally wholesome princesses, this is the book for you. Both Denna’s and Mare’s characters are extremely well-developed, and getting to know them will definitely be a pleasure.

That is all for this book review! I hope you enjoyed reading it, and I hope you give Of Fire and Stars a read.

Thanks for reading!

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