Title: An Accident of Stars
Author: Foz Meadows
Series: Manifold Worlds #1
Rating: 3/5 stars
The Overview: When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war. There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest. Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic. Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying? -Goodreads
There were many aspects I enjoyed about An Accident of Stars even though the story never developed to its fullest potential. It’s a fun, light read for those who like classic portal-fantasies.
The diverse cast of characters (boasting some LGBT awesomeness) were easily the best component of the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading each POV (which bounced around in almost an omniscient style at times) and appreciated how well developed they all were. Even during the slower moments, my interest in the characters kept me engaged.
The book also impressed me with its creatively constructed clash of original cultures. Primarily two very distinct peoples with clear customs, religions, and styles. They were so interesting to read about that I wish all of the other world building elements had reached this level of development.
Most of the settings and overall atmosphere creation were decent, but there were definitely a few elements that could’ve been pushed further. The author had the framework and creativity to present a completely original world, but seemed to choose the easy way out when it mattered the most. The use of horses as mounts (when there was already a substitute built into the story – see cover image) is a great example of what I mean. I’m not gonna lie, seeing the Roa on the cover was one of my main reasons for picking up the book, as I was hoping it was an indication that the story would contain a plethora of original flora and fauna. The presence of horses (and a few other blatantly “our world” elements) dissolved the magic for me a bit. It was on the cusp of being what I wanted so many times before pulling back that I can’t help but feel it an opportunity wasted.
Another element that fell shy of my expectations was the politics. As I mentioned, Meadows did a great job setting up unique cultures and religions, and even set the stage right off the bat for an interesting government… but then really didn’t do anything with it for the rest of the book. I was expecting something so much more complex, but the focus was definitely on looking from the bottom-up (how everyone is affected) than from the top-down (how to affect everyone else), so the plot came off as reactionary. This may not bother some readers as much as it did me. I’ve just been immersing myself in fantasy novels abundant in political intrigue and complex plotlines lately that the straightforward non-involvement of political movement really stuck out as a deficiency to me.
My final thoughts are on the general pacing of the novel. The first half of the book contained a lot of “organizing,” where it sort of felt like the plot stalled while key players were moved into position. Generally speaking, I don’t usually mind this as long as the characters and their dynamics are interesting, as was the case here. What I ultimately object to is that if the book is going to build towards something, there’d better be a payoff. Unfortunately I don’t think the juice was worth the squeeze in this instance. The story didn’t really do anything after all of that preparation that it couldn’t have done by just jumping straight into the action. In summation: I didn’t mind it while I was reading (because the characters were bomb), but in hindsight I’m not really happy with where the story went. That is, until the very end. So many interesting things were introduced within the last 5% of the book that I’m actually excited to continue on. Hopefully all the things on the cusp in this book will slam dunk in the next one.
Overall, as my points emphasize, I think this could’ve been something truly amazing, but in the end it was just a solid “I liked it” kind of book. I have a positive attitude towards the author’s writing and look forward to seeing if she’ll develop her ideas to the next-level in future books.
Recommendations: I’d hand this to fantasy readers who love that classic portal-fantasy storyline. It gets bonus points for equally interesting and diverse LGBT characters who carry the story through some slower moments. A fun read.
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