of fire and stars & of ice and shadows – audrey coulthurst | duology review

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst


Series: Of Fire and Stars #1
Published November 22nd 2016 by Balzer + Bray
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, LGBT
Representation: Sapphic romance

Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

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—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the 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 become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And 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.


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“But some things are stronger than years of freedom.
The draw of fire.
A longing for freedom.
Or a girl on a red horse.”

Fascinated and intrigued by the magic system in Of Fire and Stars, especially finding out more of Dennaleia’s powers. The last scene was telling of her potential and the mass destruction she could do. Audrey Coulthurst’s writing style paints vivid imagery of the world in its beauty and the magic in it.

Denna is more of a demure princess while Mare is a tomboy. The former is quieter and will follow the rulebook while the latter will wreak havoc and break all the rules whenever possible. Everyone underestimated the females and I love how the girls are proving everyone wrong in a spectacular manner.

“Partnerships can be built, but love can’t be coaxed. Love should feel like the first time you gallop a horse flat out. It should make your blood sing. It should terrify you. And some part of you should recognise it the first time you meet the other person’s eyes.”

The relationship between Denna and Mare was slow-burning because they took a while to know each other. Mare used to think Denna as a spoiled princess who doesn’t know anything and needs to be handheld for everything. As time goes by, she learned that Denna is more than a foreign princess who came to marry her brother.

Denna is smart and perceptive. So many things went over other people’s heads, Denna caught even the littlest of details. Mare started accepting Denna as being in her life and came to enjoy the time spent together. Mare showed sides of her that aren’t just boyish but she’s adamant about being more than a princess. Both of them complimented each other really well.

Only I knew the truth–that all that death had been an act of love.

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The review of book two contains some spoilers for Of Fire and Stars. Do not venture there if you haven’t read book one yet!

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Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst


Series: Of Fire and Stars #2
Published August 13th 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, LGBT
Representation: Sapphic romance

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Princesses Denna and Mare are in love and together at last–only to face a new set of dangers.

Mare just wants to settle down with the girl she loves, which would be easier if Denna weren’t gifted with forbidden and volatile fire magic. Denna must learn to control her powers, which means traveling in secret to the kingdom of Zumorda, where she can seek training without fear of persecution. Determined to help, Mare has agreed to serve as an ambassador as a cover for their journey.

But just as Mare and Denna arrive in Zumorda, an attack on a border town in Mynaria changes everything. Mare’s diplomatic mission is now urgent: she must quickly broker an alliance with the queen of Zumorda to protect her homeland. However, the queen has no interest in allying with other kingdoms; it’s Denna’s untamed but powerful magic that catches her eye. The queen offers Denna a place among her elite trainees–an opportunity that would force her to choose between her magic and Mare.

As Denna’s powers grow stronger, Mare struggles to be the ambassador her kingdom needs. By making unconventional friends, her knowledge of Zumorda and its people grow, and so too do her suspicions about who is truly behind the attacks on Zumorda and her homeland.

As rising tensions and unexpected betrayals put Mare and Denna in jeopardy and dangerous enemies emerge on all sides, can they protect their love and save their kingdoms?


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Not knowing the language fluently, the culture and customs of the other kingdoms, Mare is inadequate at being an ambassador. Even though she’s a princess and the representative of her kingdom, her incompetency and lack of knowledge sucked when she needed those to qualm the uprising conflict. On the other hand, Denna has the information, knowledge, and critical thinking skills. It’s obvious, even to strangers, that she’s not who she seemed to be.

Each of them has different ideas of how their future would look like and the steps they need to go through to reach there. Denna’s powers are still unstable and too powerful for her to handle without any proper training, and the only way she could do that is by putting a kingdom between herself and Mare. Simultaneously, Mare needs to fulfill her diplomatic responsibilities as an ambassador from her own kingdom. She needs to find peace for her people but it isn’t easy when she’s seen as weak without any sword-fighting skills.

“I chose you for a reason. I chose you because in choosing you I was also choosing myself for the first time.”

Watching them grow as individuals were incredibly satisfying. They have to do what they need to do and they did it with so much courage, bravery, and determination. There were countless mistakes and painful moments along the way but they became impressive people. It’s true that, in Of Ice and Shadows, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

As Denna slowly learns about her affinity and how to control it, readers start to know more about world-building. The plot thickens and becomes more complex as the characters explore Zumorda through the magic and the mysterious coup going on in the kingdom.

Overall, I enjoyed Of Ice and Shadows. Both Denna and Mare’s personal growth journeys were admirable. There were new interesting characters introduced and they all had unique voices and abilities.

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