This sapphic fantasy by Audrey Coulthurst, featuring a romance between a scholarly princess and the horse-loving sister to her betrothed, has a sweet rrelationship but lacks depth in its worldbuilding.
Queer, young adult, fantasy, romance
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 a very sweet, slow-burn romance that warmed my sapphic heart. Denna and Mare had complementary qualities, and their relationship was anything but rushed. This was the highlight of the book, and the author was good at making me actually care about them getting together. It was so slow-burn that by the first half of the novel I was screaming for them to kiss.
The author chose to make the world devoid of homophobia, so the obstacles to their relationship are nothing to do with them both being women. This was refreshing and rather unusual for a Medieval-type fantasy setting.
The world was simply not distinctive. It is a standard high fantasy land with elemental magic , and more could have been done to make it compelling. Different lands and religions were mentioned but glossed over, and I was left feeling like the world was only a sketch of a truly inhabited land with actual culture.
There were several points at which the plot started to drag, particularly during the scenes focusing on court politics. Without a compelling world, I simply couldn’t care enough about the different alliances and what it would mean for Mynaria.
I enjoyed this book, but this is almost entirely due to Denna and Mare’s romance. It was well-done and I cared about them, but the author didn’t write a compelling enough world to make me care what happened to it. With more in-depth worldbuilding, this could have been great, but unfortunately I was left feeling like the book didn’t live up to its full potential.