A Princess in a political marriage to a Prince falls in love with someone else, except that that someone else is the Prince’s sister. Lesbian princesses are a novelty in the teen fiction world, so I had high expectations. Their romance was going to sweep the cobwebs out of my heart, going to make me laugh and cry and be the mark on which I compared all other books about lesbian princesses that came after it. Or, it would at least have a decent plot.
Long story short, it did not live up to my expectations. In fact, it didn’t meet any of my expectations.
The world of Of Fire and Stars features three countries, Zumorda, Havemont, and Myrnaria all of which have a tenuous relationship. One of the main issues of contention is magic. Zumorda has a ton of it, and are notoriously reclusive and mysterious, while Myrnaria and Havemont have a better relationship with each other and look on magic with suspicion.
Due to an assassination of the King’s right hand man and brother by some unknown magical faction, Mynaria has been pushed to the boiling point with the mages aka Recusants on one side, and the anti-magical extremists on the other. Princess Denna of Havemont’s political marriage to Prince Thandi of Mynaria could not come at a better time. Mynaria might need an ally in Havemont if it turns out that Zumorda is behind the assassination.
Denna has been raised from a young age to be the perfect Princess. She knows how to mind her p’s and q’s and entertain guests at a party but her skills are far from limited to being a show pony. Denna knows her trade routes from her highways, and could be a big help to the administration running Mynaria, if only they’d let her do it. She also has a secret. She is a fire magic user whose power is only growing, and is getting more and more difficult to hide.
Denna is prepared to do whatever she has to to make the alliance between Havemont and Mynaria succeed, including marry Prince Thandi and suppress her magic.
Mare on the other hand avoids her duty as much as humanly possible. She prefers the barn to any political function and the only thing does that might be construed as helpful is spying for her uncle.
Mare complains that no one in the administration takes her seriously, but you honestly can’t blame them. She has done nothing to earn people’s respect and her whining gets old fast. Every authority figure is an idiot to her, but rather than trying to take on a leadership role and fix the problem in a way that might unite Mynaria’s administration and get things done she chooses do her own things on the side and criticize everything.
Denna and Mare don’t have an intense amount of chemistry, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say their relationship feels forced, but it doesn’t flow well either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad that Of Fire and Stars centers on a lesbian relationship and we hope that there are many more to come, it’s just that it suffers from the ususal YA problem of just having a meh romance. They have no sparks, no definitive bonding moments, and no real character growth. The only reason it’s not entirely forgettable is because they are a lesbian couple.
For the duration of Of Fire and Stars Denna and Mare are consumed with trying to figure out who assassinated the King’s brother in a whodunnit that could put even the most dedicated Ms. Marpel fan to sleep.
It’s a shockingly boring mystery that hinges researching a knife through reading books. That’s 200 pages of plot devoted to reading a book. And if you’re half decent at predicting plots, you already know who assassinated the King’s brother anyway.
And what’s left of the plot is focused on horseback riding.
The horseback riding details were legit. Coulhurst has clearly been a rider for many years and knows what she’s talking about when it comes to horse paraphernalia. You see Mynaria has a very horse focused culture, and for a Princess to not be able to ride would be unthinkable. It’s a cute piece of worldbuilding. But horses dominate the novel for reasons I’m really not clear on why. The actual political intrigue, where most of the story should come from, has a small part in comparison.
So while Of Fire and Stars was one of my most anticipated books this year it did not meet my expectations. From a lacklustre political plot to lifeless romance, there is just nothing in this book to really capture your attention or keep you coming back. The last 100 pages do pick up a bit, but by the time you get to them you’re just grateful that the book is almost over.
If you pick up Of Fire and Stars be warned, it sounds amazing on paper, but you might leave it wondering why you bothered. I’m fairly certain that Of Fire and Stars is the first part of a series, but it’ll be a hard sell for me to pick up the sequel.