ARC Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Of Fire and Stars
author: Audrey Coulthurst
pages: 400
format: Paperback
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 1/5 (from hated to loved) or 3/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Graceling by Kristen Cashore, other romantic fantasy.
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.

in depth

  • And here I start another review with "I really wanted to like this book, but..."  Not only is it fantasy, with magic, but it's F/F rep, which is so rare and so needed (in any genre, but I feel like you're so unlikely to see it outside of contemporary).  So the fact that I had to force myself through most of these pages was really sad--and underscores, I guess, the fact that we need rep of all people and diversity to be mainstream, so that one book doesn't have to hold the rep of an entire community on its shoulders.  That's a post for another day, but to Of Fire and Stars... 

  • I hope it works for other people, but it doesn't didn't work for me, on so many levels.  Honestly, this feels like Graceling all over again.  From the outset, I found it difficult to connect with Denna.  There was just something flat about her.  It wasn't until she began to investigate the murders that I felt I had a handle on her character.  Mare started out as standard fiery being-girly-sucks and suddenly developed some depth halfway through.  Unfortunately, no one else really felt fleshed out.  Denna's betrothed (what's his name, again?) literally disappears for chapters on end and only reappears to be bitchy.  

  • Oh, and every character who isn't Denna or Mare is a total idiot.  These are rulers and advisers of a nation that has ostensibly survived in their hands.  Yet, people get killed and suddenly no one but Denna knows what's up.  They're like, "But this blade is kind of like some blades in that country! So obviously the assassin was sent by that country!"  Cue Denna, "But it seems convenient.  Maybe they're acting alone.  Maybe they're framing the country."  And they're like, "No, that's dumb.  It's that country.  Time to start a war asap!"  And it goes on like that the whole book.  

  • There's also the scene where there are, like, TEN PEOPLE in a room and one bad dude with a knife, and the bad dude nearly kills someone because all ten of the people (including, ya know, people trained in fighting) are like TOODLE LOO Imma stand here and do nothing because that guy has a KNIFE.  I realize I'm being snarky, but I think it's a good example of just one scene in the book that feels contrived and ridiculous.  Which made it very difficult for me to feel invested.  

  •  Unfortunately, the romance couldn't make up for it.  Which was really too bad.  It was a classic case of Denna trying to be sweet and make friends and Mare deciding to hate Denna for no reason, and OMG how could I possibly think she's attractive run away and hide etc.  Then suddenly they were besties.  There were a few really good scenes between them, full of near misses and sharp descriptions that showed a lot of potential, but for the most part, the chemistry fizzled.  Also some of it feels graphic for a teen book?  More NA in content.  

  • Also, there's the case of "Well, I've never been trained in this, but now I'm suddenly amazing at it."  We're beyond Deus Ex Machina at this point.  

  • All in all, there was little for me to attach myself to in this debut.  The lush, romantic fantasy promised by the blurb was just a skeleton hitched to overly-convenient plot points, wooden dialogue, cardboard characters, and some truly ludicrous names from a linguistic perspective (yes, I'm a language snob).  I found myself skimming like crazy just to get to the end so I could write this review.  

  • I think this could have been a really solid book with a few more rounds of revision.  Or for a different reader.  Unfortunately, we just missed each other this time around.  

      in a sentence

      Of Fire and Stars is a great concept that's poorly executed, with a plot that feels contrived and not enough spark in its main characters to carry it through.  


      will i read this author again?  I might give her another try.  This was just the debut.  
      will i continue the series?  Probably not.  I'd need to wait for something totally new.   

      Note: I received this copy from Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


      1. I have a feeling that if I had read this before reading your review, I would be nodding at every single one of your bullet points. And your review does make me think of Graceling a lot (which I read years ago and I don't remember much). I've talked to Holly about this book as well and she didn't like it either. There really needs to be more f/f out there in the fantasy and sci-fi genre, because that would be awesome.

      2. Bummer! I've seen some mixed reviews for this one and it's been pretty similar to your thoughts. Ugh, the plot development seems a little annoying. I didn't get a chance to pick this up at BEA because you know too many other books. I may actually pass on this one now, sadly. Great review!
        Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally