All the Stars and Teeth – review

Author: Adalyn Grace
Publication date: February 4, 2020
Genre: young adult, fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars

Magical and imaginative, All the Stars and Teeth is an excellent debut novel and gives a promising start to both a new series and Adalyn Grace’s career. Filled to the brim with curses, powers, mythical creatures, and lovable characters, this book will immerse you in a fantastical world where magic is commonplace and nothing is as it seems.

I’m not feeling terribly inspired in my reviewing–I have a lot of thoughts on this book in terms of predictions for the sequel, but am not in a terribly coherent-full-paragraph-review mindset, so I’m going to give some bulletpoints by topic instead and see how this goes!

Synopsis

Amora Montara is the sole descendant of the royal line in the kingdom of Visidia. In a world where different types of magic are confined to different islands, this makes her one of the few remaining practitioners of soul magic, a practice sometimes beautiful and sometimes brutal. When her ceremony to prove herself worthy of her kingdom goes awry, though, she also learns of an uprising in her kingdom that her father kept hidden from her. Amora finds herself with no choice but to head off with the roguish pirate Bastian in a last-ditch attempt to both redeem herself and save the kingdom–oh, accompanied by her healer fiancee, who stowed away on the ship.

The goals are pretty simple: 1. Find a mermaid to help navigate. 2. Go to the exiled, hidden island of Zudoh, where the rebellion’s leader, Kaven, lives. 3. Stop Kaven, save her people, maybe break some curses. What could possibly go wrong?

Characters

  • Amora – a bold, feisty princess who has to grapple with the fact that everything she’s been told in her life was basically a lie. In some ways, she is extremely immature and impulsive, but I think that’s to be expected: her life was pretty sheltered, and outside of the brutality that is soul magic, she hasn’t been exposed to a whole lot of the real world. She definitely grows over the course of the book, at least in terms of being willing to lead and claim her own power.
  • Bastian – the classic charming pirate who acts cocky but has a secret vulnerable side as well. He’s incredibly fond of his magical ship, Keel Haul, and is also incredibly dedicated to his quest to save the kingdom. I liked Bastian, especially how much he was willing to stand up to Amora (read: deliberately piss her off just for giggles); their dynamic was fun to watch. And seeing his secrets unfold over the course of the story was interesting as well–some, I expected, but the author also wove in some excellent twists.
  • Ferrick – oh, Ferrick, you precious little puppy of a human being. He’s loyal to a fault (I mean, he literally stowed away on a ship to follow a fiancee who he knows doesn’t really have feelings for him, and also he’s willing to cut off his own limbs sometimes to help with her magic? I mean, they do grow back…it’s complicated…), he really tries his best, and though he is somewhat out of his element in the world of fighting and skulduggery, he is a valuable crew member anyway.
  • Vataea – a mermaid who takes no shit from anyone. She goes back and forth between land and sea, and her magic is crazy powerful, but she also is just a cool person and provides Amora with a much-needed female friend. Oh, and she is vengeful–she mentioned that, if she had her way, she would tear out the hearts of every man who ever told her to smile. Heck yeah, feminist mermaids.

Story and World

  • Visidia as a whole is an interesting kingdom, with multiple islands and a unique type of magic tethered to each island. The reasoning for this is complex and comes out gradually over the course of the book, but one thing it does well is give each island its own sort of “personality” that is reflected in its geography, its architecture, and its people’s personalities. We didn’t get to visit all seven islands in this book, but I liked the ones we did get to see.
  • The one thing about all that magic, though, is that at first it felt very info-dump-y. There were a lot of names to learn, and a lot of magic types, and it wasn’t gradual at all–they just kind of threw you in the deep end and said, “Good luck!”
  • What’s around Visidia? Does it have neighboring kingdoms? This wasn’t touched on, and I’m curious whether the author has come up with a broader universe for this or not.
  • The concept as a whole was great in that it contained a lot of tropes that are popular in YA today (and I haven’t gotten tired of yet)–there was very brutal, bloody magic; there was a princess becoming disillusioned with the state of her kingdom; there is a ragtag team of misfits on a quest to save the day.
  • The plot twists were definitely satisfying, well-thought-out and pushing the story in some unexpected directions.

Style (and other details)

  • VAdalyn Grace’s writing is lush, descriptive, and fluid, which makes the whole world easy to slip into and hard to leave.
  • Her striking imagery is a large part of what brings the world to life, especially in its use of color, with lots of vibrant jewel-tones, and its creative and detailed clothing descriptions.
  • However, the excessive descriptions sometimes detract from action–the balance between imagery and action can be tough to strike, and sometimes she errs a bit on the side of verbosity. (Ironic, coming from me, I know.)
  • As a more general thing, the beginning was rough and in many ways confusing. I was really reluctant at the start of the book. Glad I stuck it out, because after a few chapters it all started making sense and sucked me right in, but it took some work to get there.
  • One more small thing, not related to any of this but a big deal to me: the book made a point of emphasizing consent in romantic/sexual relationships! Major props to the author for that.
  • The cover is gorgeous. That’s all.

The verdict?

This book will pull you in a lot of directions emotionally, with endearing characters forced to make difficult choices. It isn’t afraid to get dark when it needs to, but it also has its moments of lightness in between. And though it is not perfect, it is a stellar debut–Adalyn Grace definitely made a splash here, and I can’t wait to see what waves will follow in the sequel.

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