Of Fire And Stars is a standalone fantasy novel, and the debut of author Audrey Coulthurst. It tells the story of princess Denna, who moves to the kingdom of Mynaria to fulfill her lifelong betrothal to crown prince Thandi, and princess Mare, Thandi’s free-spirited sister who must teach Denna to ride. Denna hopes that her political marriage will eventually lead to love, but as she spends so much time with Mare (with both her riding lessons and the pair trying to solve the crime of a royal assassination together before it leads to war) the two princesses find themselves falling for each other instead…
And if that wasn’t difficult enough, Mynaria forbids magic, and Denna has a gift which, if discovered, could make her the prime suspect for the assassination.
I picked this book up in the hopes of a light, uplifting read, and though the first few chapters were a bit slow and slightly boring, once the pace picked up, I got exactly what I wanted!
The romance and the protagonists’ personalities were strongly hinted at in the blurb (by which I mean, they were outright stated), which made me worried that they would feel forced. But in the end, I had nothing to be worried about. The characters were strongly written, distinctive, and easy to connect to. The romance was really well done: not too angsty, not too sappy; Coulthurst managed to hit the perfect balance. The characters had great chemistry and I could really root for the relationship.
As for the rest of the story, it was full of excitement and tension. I loved the mystery, which kept me hanging on for answers right until the last page. At several points I did think the mystery plot would be left unresolved, as the characters didn’t seem to be making much progress, but all was finally revealed. The true culprit and their motivations were both surprising and guessable (quite a feat on Coulthurst’s part, I’d say), thus making for a very satisfying ending that I’d vaguely suspected but hadn’t expected to actually happen.
Speaking of endings, the final quarter of the book was where this story really came into its own; I really couldn’t put it down. Coulthurst did a great job of raising the tension and the stakes, and also of tying up all the loose ends. The final battle was full of action and incredibly badass; it had me on tenterhooks. And the last page left the story on a really nice, tender note which left me with the happy, fuzzy feeling I’d hoped to get from reading this book.
The writing was unsophisticated but also uncluttered, and although those who hate purple prose will find Coulthurst’s style agreeable, you’ll also find some rather nice imagery. Often the similes and metaphors used depended on who was narrating, which added to the characterisation and was a really nice touch.
My one criticism would be on the dual first-person perspectives: Coulthurst alternated chapters narrated by Denna with chapters narrated by Mare. I found this a little confusing, especially in scenes involving both characters, as I sometimes struggled to remember whose narration I was reading. However, in other scenes, this was not a problem
Overall, I found this a really enjoyable, satisfying read. I’d love to read future stories about these characters, and I definitely look forward to Coulthurst’s future books. I’d wholeheartedly recommend Of Fire And Stars to anyone looking for an interesting, well-paced story with a cute romance, or an LGBT romance with a happy ending.
Have you read Of Fire And Stars? Let me know what you think in the comments!