A classic hero’s journey type novel, Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson, while predictable at times, puts its own interesting spin on the timeless trope. While Ara, the main character, can be comfortably placed in the Chosen One archetype, she’s accompanied by a future queen and face of The Rebellion (yeah, there’s one of those too), who outshines her in enough situations that the former gives off less Mary Sue vibes than she otherwise might. All the characters on the quest, in fact, are familiar, yet developed enough to remain endearing. I anticipate their full development later in the series, based on hints given in this first book, which will be very exciting to see.
The Loresmith. Steadfast. Loyal. Practical.
Ara grew up with a vague idea of her heritage, learning to fight, and hearing tales of the gods who granted her power. When she leaves home to seek her fate, with her stave Ironbranch in hand, she still doesn’t fully understand the meaning of her future title, unsure as the reader about the world around her, which only seems to grow stranger and deadlier as her journey continues. Luckily, her companions are just as determined to see their mission through.
The Queen. Fierce. Direct. Guarded.
Nimhea is a literal and figurative queen. While I’m not sure about her skills in politicking, she’s a warrior above all else, and a deft one at that. Her love for her brother and her duty to the people of Saetland are her only clear motivators, though her development could’ve been more in depth.
The Scholar. Bookish. Analytical. Naive.
Eamon is a major nerd, and a mostly-lovable cinnamon roll. He’s also a complex and confusing character that doesn’t fall into a stereotype. Twin to Nimhea, Eamon has long been in her shadow. With his questionable health, his scholarship is what sets him apart and sets off their journey in the first place. Without his knowledge, it’s possible that the Loresmith would never be.
The Thief. Mischievous. Nonchalant. Witty.
Teth is the guide of the three travelers, selected by the Saetland underworld as their escort. His flippant attitude often lightens the mood, though he has his broody moments here and there.
The Summoner. Mysterious. Kind. Knowing.
Lavia is… Lavia. She knows a whole lot, and no one really understands how, least of all the reader. She’s also a really good cook.
Fox. Imperious. Ferocious. Probably magic.
Weirdly anthropomorphic, considering it’s a fox.
The relationships between the characters aren’t particularly developed, but to be fair, they’ve known each other only for the span of their journey, which is a very short time. The romance is light, to the point that it mainly exists in the protagonists head, which is a bit disconcerting, but believable in the end. While the friendship to romance transition is a little jarring and the love interest is very obvious, the development of the relationship is slow, and there are no lengthy descriptions about jawlines and swirling irises or whatever, so I have no complaints.
While the characters were enjoyable and certainly better than the pacing (unbearably slow), and frankly, the plot (a bit bland and predictable), they are second to the worldbuilding, which I enjoyed most. The lore was especially interesting, and I very much enjoyed the inclusion of the gods, who are reminiscent of the Percy Jackson pantheon. Ara’s position as Loresmith is interesting as well. The magic system is a bit vague, but as Ara is learning alongside the reader, this does make some sense. Speaking of disappointments, the prose was a bit juvenile at times, and I do think at least another round of editing could’ve done the book some good.
Overall, Forged in Fire and Stars is a decent YA fantasy. While it has its quirks, it tends toward predictability, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can get boring. The characters and world, however, are engaging, and make for an enjoyable read.