Early 5Bat! Review: Of Fire and Stars, by Audrey Coulthurst

November 21, 2016 Review 0

Early 5Bat! Review: Of Fire and Stars, by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Published by HarperCollins on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 400
Source: Edelweiss
Sexual Content: Kissing, non-explicit love scene.
Reviewed by: Kim
5 Stars

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.

OF FIRE AND STARS had me hooked from the prologue, when Deena picks up a hot ember with her bare hands, much to the horror of her mother and sister - not because she’s burnt herself, but because she hasn’t. Deena has an affinity for fire magic, and although it’s easy to overlook in her home country, she’s been betrothed to the prince of a neighbouring kingdom where magic users are persecuted, exiled and killed.

This book portrayed a brilliant portrayal of hatred and prejudice, where suspicion breeds violence on both sides of the issue. With her marriage to the prince, new laws will restrict travel of magic users in Deena’s homeland, something Deena had no idea when she first arrived. As the violence of the city spills into the castle, Deena is more anxious than ever to prove to her new kingdom that she can help make a difference, even if no one else will take her seriously.

Although Deena is promised to Thandi, it’s Mare, his sister, who wins her heart. The girls do not get along at first, and it was lovely to see them start seeing not only each other's’ strengths, but also how well they could work together. They have very different upbringings: Deena has been preened and prepared to one day be queen, and Mare has been left to herself, learning more from her excursions outside the castle than in dance or dialogue classes. They manage to bounce ideas off each other and solve some mysteries way before the officials running the kingdom do.

Horses are incredibly important in her new country, and I found all the discussions about what makes a horse fit to be a warhorse were fun and informative. I was really impressed with the way equine details not only foreshadowed events, but were also critical to the plot at the end of the book. Horses pop up in lots of little ways, but my favourite was the bracelets made of horsehair, which represent how many how many horses the wearer has raised and trained and are worn as a badge of skill and devotion.

What truly made this a nearly perfect book for me was the way same-sex relationships were handled; it wasn’t a big deal. Characters were upset about a character’s hidden magic powers, but who the person chose to live their life with wasn’t important. Throughout the book, some people were in same-sex relationships, and it wasn’t commented on much more than that. The drama that comes out of Mare and Deema’s relationship was because she was promised to Mare’s brother first, not because they are both girls. Mare even mentions, early on, that if she were forced to marry, she would marry a woman so there aren’t any awkward questions about the legitimacy of any offspring.

I’ve developed a love for stand-alone fantasy books, especially ones where the world-building is “big” enough to accommodate more stories, but where the author has chosen a very specific one to tell. The intrigue in OF FIRE AND STARS was fun, the dramatic conclusion was incredible and the romance felt just right for a young adult book. Overall, it was magical.

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