The Fate of Stars by S. D. Simper, narrated by Lois Ridge

What was the book about?
Tallora had too much fun at a party and, as a result, finds herself alone at sea during a storm. Noticing a boat in peril, she, like the good mermaid she is, tries to help a person who seems about to drown. But her good deed isn’t left unpunished and instead of saving a life, she is kidnapped and taken away from her world. Her captor is Princess Dauriel, daughter of wicked Empress Vahla. By bringing this “gift” to her mother, Dauriel hoped to finally get her approval. Alas! Not only does her mother still despise her, but Dauriel is appalled at the way Tallora is treated. As time goes by, an unlikely friendship starts forming between the two women.

Featured Tropes:
Enemies to Lovers, Mermaids and Goddesses

Book Strengths:
The Fate of Stars is a dark-but-not-too-dark enemies-to-lovers story (I can’t really call it a romance since the ending isn’t exactly happy), a very slow burn between a bisexual mermaid and a stone butch princess. It’s a tale of redemption, with a Stockholm Syndrome twist.

Dauriel is a good example of morally grey character. She isn’t as bad as she wants the world – that is, her mother – to think, and the reason Tallora ends up falling for her, despite the huge power imbalance, is her ability to show remorse and try to fix her mistakes and their consequences. Tallora, on the other hand, is much more straightforward. I’d say she’s a normal girl, except she’s a mermaid. She likes her life, she loves her fun, she’s witty and smart. What makes the transition from hate to love credible is the hilarious and merciless banter between her and Dauriel, with Tallora never backing off. They gradually go from trading insults to gentle teasing, each earning the other’s respect as they go.

Besides these two and a whole flock of secondary characters, from Dauriel’s awful mother to the courtesans or the foreign diplomats, the most impressive part is the world-building. It’s complex without being overwhelming and shows a world divided between a cruel and callous but progressive empire and an apparently kind kingdom ruled by religious extremism. The world where the story is set is very different from the one we live in – there are mermaids and mentions of dragons but also puppies and horses – yet is also very similar when it comes to power, politics and religious oppression.

Book Weaknesses:
Not really a weakness but I don’t know where else to mention it: authors often have favourite words or turns of phrase. In Table for Two by Kate Gavin for example, the main characters whisper a lot. In this book, they keep stealing each other’s lips or hands. It’s sweet.

Character Chemistry:
I love how Tallora’s perception of Dauriel’s physique changes as she comes to know and appreciate her. When she first sees her, she finds the princess plain but as the story progresses, she begins to view her as beautiful, noticing who she is beyond her looks and facade. Another interesting detail – a significant detail – is that when they first meet – ie when Tallora is kidnapped – Tallora’s body is that of a mermaid. That changes for reasons I can’t explain without spoiling, but it makes Tallora and Dauriel’s lovemaking all the more captivating as it’s the first time Tallora has sex in a human body.

Audio version:
I enjoyed Lois Ridge’s narration a lot, the pace is pleasant, her character voices are distinctive – a very important aspect for me, as usual – and fit the characters’ personality. I especially liked Tallora’s voice, all at once light and firm, the strength almost palpable under the surface even when she feels vulnerable.

Heat Rating
🔥 🔥 🔥 

Wrap up:
My plan is to listen to the second book, Heart of Silver Flame, ASAP, and I’m very impatient…


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