Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars follows the story of two strong young women who fall in love. 

Denna has been betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, sealing the alliance between her country and his. But Denna has a secret: she possesses the ability to use fire magic. As the future queen of a country where the use of magic is outlawed, Denna must learn to navigate her new home while hiding the magic within her.

Mare, the sister of Denna’s betrothed, just wants to be free. With pressure mounting from her brother and father to marry as a proper princess should, Mare spends as much time as she can away from court life, riding horses— until her father demands that she teach Denna horseback riding. 

A series of assassinations leaves the kingdom in shock, and the two team up to get to the bottom of the mystery. As they slowly begin to fall for each other, however, the princesses are forced to choose between their duties and their hearts.

Typically, I don’t care for romance in YA novels. There are three ways I typically react; either I feel indifferent towards the romance, I have a somewhat positive opinion of it, or I actively hate it. Before I’d read this, I couldn’t remember the last time a YA romance actually made me feel something. In this respect, Of Fire and Stars is unforgettable.

Mare and Denna have great chemistry (dare I say a butch/femme dynamic), and as the story goes on, you can start to feel them actually care about each other. It’s frustratingly slow in pace, yet it's just right at the same time. On one hand, the fact that the heroines take so long to admit their feelings gives their relationship time to develop, but on the other, I just wanted these useless lesbians to kiss already. 

I also really loved the individual characters of the two girls and how they developed throughout the story. At the beginning, Mare is just a tomboyish character and Denna is just a meek, dutiful character, but by the end of the book I felt like they were both so much more than that. The girls are faced with many hardships, but the one I found most interesting was how they overcame being women in power. For example, Denna is expected to host tea parties and poetry readings instead of being involved in politics like she’s capable of. 

Unfortunately, though, these aspects carried the whole story. Most others fell flat. For example, the book can get very repetitive, and it takes much too long to get into the action. Also, the world building is next to nonexistent. One thing I did actually like about the world was that homophobia didn’t exist in it. I think that was a really powerful move on Coulthurst’s part because often, in fantasy novels, the world keeps the same prejudices we have here today when they really don’t have to.

One other great thing about this book, despite its flaws, is theme. Of Fire and Stars is really about following your heart and being who you are, no matter what.