All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
If there’s one truth I know, it’s that I will make things right for my kingdom. That is my fate, and I will do whatever I must to see it through.
Have you ever met people who are so full of themselves? Yes, confidence is a virtue. But arrogance isn’t. When it comes to fiction, proud characters can be tolerable as long as they deserve to be that way. Katniss Everdeen is an example of this. She’s generally a haughty girl, but you can’t question her archery skills and capability to provide for her family.
On the other hand, we have heroines like Celaena Sardothien, supposedly exceptional assassins who fail to dispose of their targets. And of course, we readers can’t judge them because THEY’RE THE CHOSEN ONES. This book gave birth to another Celaena, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.
All the Stars and Teeth is a dark fantasy story about a kingdom named Visidia. In this archipelagic society, each island specializes in a particular kind of magic (there are seven in total). Amora Montara, the MC, is a special snowflake because she and the other royals of Arida are the only practitioners of soul magic, which enables them to kill criminals in very creative ways. Amora is basically a glorified witch who can harm others by cursing various body parts, including their teeth and bones. And before she inherits her father’s throne, she has to prove her magical prowess.
As you might have predicted, her public performance goes awry, and Amora finds herself fleeing from her homeland and partnering with a magicless pirate, a potential fiance, and a dangerous mermaid. Together, they travel to Visidia’s other islands in hopes of stopping a rebellion that can eradicate the monarchy.
At first, this book was fascinating, mainly because of its elaborate magic system. Each kind of magic (e.g., time, curse, and soul) was associated with a particular jewel (e.g., sapphire, ruby, and amethyst), and this quickly reminded me of Final Fantasy IX, one of my favorite RPGs. Gems are also a significant part of the novel I’m writing, so I was quite excited to find another source of inspiration. Moreover, the magic system was so extensive that even the second half of the book had world-building.
But as the plot progressed, Amora began to get on my nerves. Throughout the story, she was anything but meek. When she saw an opportunity to threaten others with her deadly magic, she gladly took it. Not even her friends were safe. And their feelings didn’t matter because unlike Amora, they weren’t the fated saviors of Visidia. Only those with soul magic could rule and “protect” the kingdom, and Amora didn’t hesitate to the point that out.
Imagine my satisfaction when she realized her family’s role in the destruction of Visidia. King Cato, her exalted ancestor, was a power-hungry jerk with an annoying inferiority complex. Because of him, the Montara bloodline was cursed, learning multiple magics was forbidden, and soul magic lost its purity. So if anyone deserved to sit on the throne, it wasn’t the Montaras.
Bastian, Ferrick, and Vataea didn’t hold this against Amora, but I wish that they did just to give her a slice of humble pie. After a week or so of wallowing, Amora regained her vanity and resolved to disclose the truth to her people AFTER she “makes things right.” I guess she achieved her dream of being like her dad, who was such a good liar.
Amora was too cold and vain to be likable. She was also obsessed with ensuring her reign that she forgot to act like a human. She was vulnerable only when she was with Bastian, and she resented that. In light of her failures and family history, her self-importance wasn’t justified. Other readers might blame it on her upbringing, but don’t we have agency or the freedom of choice?
Overall, Amora tarnished my reading experience. Still, I refuse to give the book a 1-star rating on the off chance that the author intentionally created a dislikable protagonist or anti-hero. A sequel is in the works, so I hope that Amora will finally have an accurate perception of her value. ^^