My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Of Fire and Stars is a tale of magic, romance, and treachery. The story is told through alternating points of view, Mare is the princess of Mynaria and sister to Thandi the future King while Denna is a princess of Havemont and future wife of Thandi. Although Mare is royalty, she does not enjoy her crown choosing to spend her time in the stables and wishing she could live her own life. Denna has been trained and taught her entire life to be worthy of the arranged marriage that is her future. That is what is expected of her and all she knows.
Forced to adjust to a life at court, Denna finds herself in riding lessons with Mare in preparation for her wedding. Having never ridden a horse before she is concerned but puts her all into learning, which impresses the recalcitrant Mare. Their interactions and friendship grow over the course of the novel in a believable way, from the initial opinions of dislike to a true, bonded friendship. Although Denna is betrothed, her feelings only grow for Mare until her every thought is of the princess rather than the prince. Mare dismays each time she thinks about her brother marrying Denna, as he doesn’t realize her best qualities. Each fears that her feelings are not reciprocated and keep everything bottled up. Whether their tale has a happy ending or not, you won’t know unless you read the book. I really enjoyed the relationships and interactions in this book, particularly a romance that is more diverse than we normally get to see.
The world-building could have been better in this novel, but it is not non-existent. There are a variety of different lands and people mentioned, unfortunately, we only receive the barest of information. Even though one of our main characters is from another land, we learn about little more than their harsh winters. The magic system and other lands like Zumorda were so fascinating, but not explored. While some of this can be explained by the fact that our characters also seem to be ill-informed about their neighbors, we don’t receive much more information about Mynaria and that’s where this book takes place.
I found the main characters to be relatable but didn’t connect deeply with some of the secondary ones. That was disappointing because it meant when there was an emotional scene or death, as a reader you weren’t torn apart by it. To be honest, I didn’t have opinions or feelings about it at all and I wish that were not the case. I love when books sweep you up, heart and soul, making you a part of the story and tearing out your emotions with every line.
Magic is feared and punished in Mynaria, so we sadly don’t get to experience much of it. When we see experienced practitioners perform, it is fascinating and varied. Someone with an air affinity might be able to create a breeze but they also may be able to transform into a bird. I wish this magic system was more developed and/or explained more because I just want to know more.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to young adult/teen readers who enjoy magic, fantasy, romance, or more diverse books.