Written by: Audrey Coulthurst
For ages: Young Adult (13-17 years)
Topics Covered: Political Intrigue, LGBT, romance, magic, lesbian relationships
Summary: This book is fabulous, and I (Lee) couldn’t put it down until I had finished it! What starts as your typical YA fantasy- Dennaleia, a girl (with “special powers” that she must hide) travels to meet her betrothed, soon takes left turns down twisting dark alleys of political intrigue and religious fundamentalism. The sneaking and spying is not just limited to the warring factions active in the kingdom of Mynaria, as Denna realizes that it is not her fiancé, the prince who lights a fire within her, but his sister, Mare. The love story is a slow burn, like many reviews have stated, and I felt that it was true to the experience of discovering your sexuality for the first time, and falling for someone who maybe isn’t the best person for you to fall for (most queers I know have a terrible first partner story). I also appreciated Mare’s simple explanation of her previous relationship with a man, and how that relationship is still valued and honored despite it moving from a sexual/romantic one to a platonic friendship.
I enjoyed the characters and was swept up in the love story, and agree with reviewers who have compared it with the strong female characters found in Tamora Pierce’s novels- like Kel from her series Protector of the Small. Those books were formative for me as a young non-binary human (who had no idea that they were non-binary) coming of (reading) age in the mid to late 1990’s. They offered a window into worlds where gender fluidity (although Pierce’s protagonist Kel identified as a woman) and gender non-conforming behavior was celebrated. As Of Fire and Stars puts front and center, caring for others is not a “feminine weakness” but instead a bold and strong show of courage and compassion. Coulthurst pulls no punches and hands her heroine several challenging episodes of violence and loss, but balances it with a sensual and believable love story. I am very excited not only to read the sequel to Of Fire and Stars – Of Ice and Shadows – which comes out in August (like two weeks from now-it’s crazy how time flies) but her other novels as well: Starworld and Inkmistress (another story from the same universe as Of Fire and Stars)!
About the Author & the Cover Artist:
Audrey Coulthurst writes YA books that tend to involve magic, horses, and kissing the wrong people. When she’s not dreaming up new stories, she can usually be found painting, singing, or on the back of a horse.
Audrey has a Master’s in Writing from Portland State University and studied with Malinda Lo as a 2013 Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow. She lives in Santa Monica, California.
Cover artist Jacob Eisinger is a german designer and illustrator who specialises in 3D illustration, working often under the alias Yippiehey. Working in the industry since 2008 and doing 3D/CGI since 2012, he also gained experience in internationally known studios. Jacob is now focusing on freelance work to bring your project to the next dimension. Jacob’s skills and experience cover a wide variety of styles and techniques, but the past years he has been specialising in colourful illustrations and character design. Yippiehey’s illustrations are full of fun details; smiles and good vibes guaranteed!