I actually read Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst (Young Adult, 389 pages) last week and am only just now typing up my review. Better late than never, yes?
“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 lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.
Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home 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 (called Mare), 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, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. 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.”
One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was how princess Dennaleia clearly demonstrates how the education of a princess can actually be beneficial to running a kingdom. Right from the beginning of the story, we’re shown how much she just wants to help make the kingdom a better place and she understands she can best accomplish that by understanding languages, cultures, geography, and in-depth demographics of the entire population. She was betrothed from a very young age and took her duty and responsibility serious. She studied trade routes and specific geographic regions, listening to the situation from a variety of angles before working to determine a course of action benefiting many instead of the selfish few. She understood her obligations and she did everything in her power to be the best representative for her people. She knows nothing about horses and even after a mildly unpleasant beginning, she still moves forward with riding lessons so she can better serve as an ambassador between her people and Mynaria. She was not a passive princess and that did a lot to make her a likeable and relatable character.
Amaranthine (Mare) is a lot of fun as a character, as her bravery and determination makes her an ideal counterbalance to Dennaleia’s poise and gracefulness. She made so many assumptions about all the people in her life, including Dennaleia, and worked to be accepting when presented with new information. I really liked Mare’s friendship with Nils and I think it was one of the few times in fiction when I’ve seen healthy male/female friendship with no sexual energy. They were best friends and that was enough for both of them. Nils never pushed Mare but he was always there to support her and watch her back and I think that’s not seen enough in anything these days.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and finished it the same day I started it. I’m glad I purchased it and will happily reread it again in the future, which means it’s rated at a high three on my rating scale.