Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: November 22nd, 2016
From the Jacket:
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 , 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.
You guys! A fairy tale where the princess falls for the PRINCESS? I am so here for this. Also, can we take a quick moment to admire the beauty of this cover art? Absolutely stunning.
I remember the day I saw the write up for this on Edelweiss. I read the synopsis twice to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, then I teared up a little, jumped up and down, and ran to tell my wife about it.
Immediately following that emotional outburst, I wrote to the publisher to plead my case about why I wanted a review copy. I reread that at least five times, held my breath, pressed send, and waited. I was thrilled when the acceptance email came back and could not wait to start reading.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. Not only because of the wonderful feelings that come with positive representation in mainstream media, but also because it was a genuinely good story. I read a lot of mixed reviews wherein readers were over the moon with the love story but bored by the rest of the content. I actually felt the opposite.
Of Fire and Stars tells the story of Princess Dennaleia, who, for political reasons, is betrothed to the prince of Mynaria. She accepts this fate without complaint. Her main concerns being keeping her dangerous and rare affinity for magic hidden, and being as useful as possible in a new place where (shocker) men make the political decisions and the women are expected to remain quiet. Quickly after her arrival in Mynaria, we meet Princess Amaranthine, who detests the royal life and wishes to spend all of her time and energy with her horses.
The two begin a friendship when Mare must teach Denna to ride horses before her coronation. Throughout these lessons, we learn a whole lot about horses, about the conflicts between the different kingdoms, and the beliefs and opinions about the use of magic (which is ultimately the underlying cause of this conflict). It was in these details that many readers were bored to tears. I enjoyed these parts and thought the plot was well written, if not at times, overly reliant on stereotypical tropes regarding independent, free thinking women.
I found the parts describing the growing relationship between Denna and Mare to be lacking. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or maybe it is because in order to read stories about lesbian characters, I often turn to fan fiction where the representation is broad and prolific. The growing relationship between them felt contrived at times, which made their chemistry hard to believe. I did appreciate the fact that their love was not considered taboo or even deviant. There are other gay characters in the book, and love is consistently displayed as a relationship between any two people, rather than two people of the opposite sex. The conflict comes because Denna is already betrothed, and a relationship with Mare threatens the alliance promised by their marriage.
There are genuinely sweet times between them and I was pulling for them to end up together. I just wasn’t as invested as I normally am when I read a good love story, and that in itself was disappointing. I think the book is great despite that, recognizing that I had high expectations, and even higher hopes due to the subject matter. There is love, intrigue, action and mystery in a quick moving plot that kept my interest and made me want to shirk all other responsibilities until I got to the conclusion. Overall, this is definitely one I would recommend, especially if you enjoy YA fantasy and appreciate lady love.
Favorite Characters: Mare, Nils, Denna
For the first time in my life, I finally felt free – because some things are more important than a crown.
Saving a kingdom.
Knowing your heart.
Or riding into the sunset with a girl on a red horse.