I received "Of Fire and Stars" by author Audrey Coulthurst in my December Owlcrate, a subscription box for young adult readers. As I read the summary in the dust jacket, I was pleased to realize that the story would not be a strictly heterosexual one. As a lesbian who loves to read, I have come to greatly appreciate any novel featuring LGBTQ characters in almost every form in which they appear. Unfortunately, LGBTQ representaion does not often spand past books explicitly about being queer. Imagine my surprise when I found a fantasy novel in which the protagonist falls in love with an individual of the same sex. I practically skipped through the house. I could only hope that the story itself could now meet my expectations, and thankfully it did.
"Of Fire and Stars" follows the life of Princess Dennaleia, who from a young age realizes she has a magical gift, dubbed an "Affinity." This gift is small while she is young, and her mother convinces her to hide it from those around her, this proves easier said than done. From childhood Denna knows of her arranged marriage with the future king of Mynaria, Prince Thandilimon, or Thandi. Denna does not expect to fall in love with the prince, she hopes for a friendship that has the potential to develop stronger feelings. Before the wedding, Denna comes to stay in Mynaria, in order to learn about her expectations as queen and to form a bond with her future husband. As Denna arrives in Mynaria she meets Thandi's older sister, Princess Amaranthine, or Mare. This name fits her better when considering her passion for horses. She is headstrong and spirited, and forced to give Denna riding lessons against her will. As Denna learns how to ride, the two princesses quickly become close.
Unfortunately, Denna's life does not remain unchanged by her Affinity, and results in danger. Mynaria's leaders wish to capture all of the people with an Affinity after a death in the kingdom is orchestrated by radical individuals with Affinities. Denna's power becomes stronger as she attempts to conceal her gift from the rest of the palace. As more accidents take place, this proves more difficult.
Love grows between Denna and Mare, leading to a new complication to their lives. Both characters realize that their duties do not match their true feelings. I won't include any spoilers here, but it should be known that I am not disappointed with the conclusion of the story by any means. The story kept me engaged with the cliffhangers and progression of suspense as the tale unfolded.
I appreciate the fact that Coulthurst's novel is a love story. It seems that being attracted to the same sex in this fantasy world is not strange or something to be ashamed of. This is progress I hope to see in the world one day. As an individual hoping to be a published author one day, I hope to someday write a love story about the kind of love I am grateful to be involved in. I thank Audrey Coulthurst for writing her novel, and recommend it to anyone interested in fantasy, and a twist on a classic love story!