All the Stars and Teeth

All the Stars and Teeth was written by Adalyn Grace and is due for release in July 2020. It is a fantasy novel that focuses on a sheltered princess who joins forces with a pirate in order to stop a revolution in her kingdom. The novel is the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

In the Kingdom of Visidia, everyone can choose what kind of magic they practice and are permitted to live on one of seven islands depending their decision. The only one who is not permitted to chose is the one who sits on the throne. Only the King or Queen is permitted to practice soul magic – the most dangerous and difficult to control of the magics. This is necessary to keep the balance and ensure that greed does not destroy the kingdom as it did in ancient times.

For her whole life, Amora has trained to take her father’s place and rule over Visidia. However, in order to do so, she must demonstrate that she has flawless control over her powers. Unfortunately, her test does not go as planned and she finds herself thrown in gaol, waiting to see if she will be permitted to try again or executed for her crimes. It is here that she first meets Bastian – a young pirate. Bastian has come from the distant island of Zudoh to seek help. A cruel revolutionary called Kraven is growing in popularity. He has already ravaged Zudoh and has now set his sights on the throne. Trouble is, Zudoh is the forbidden island of curse magic and has been cut off from the rest of Visidia for years.

Escaping aboard Bastian’s ship, the Keel Haul, with her reluctant fiance in tow, Amora sets out on the adventure that she has desired for her entire life. If she is the one to save all of Visidia from Kraven, she knows that her people will eagerly accept her as Queen. However, it’s not long before Amora learns that things may not be quite as clean-cut as she imagined. Her father has been keeping secrets from her for years, and now she is starting to realise that the royal family isn’t quite as beloved as she had been led to believe…

Before I begin, a word of warning. While All the Stars and Teeth is by no means the most objectionable novel that I have ever reviewed, there are a few scenes that may make sensitive readers uncomfortable. Amora’s soul magic can be more than a little gruesome, as it is largely used to torture people. There are also a couple of scenes of implied domestic abuse and violence against women that some people may find upsetting. You have been warned.

All the Stars and Teeth is another book that I really wanted to love. The blurb promised pirates, dangerous magics, adventures on the high seas and mermaids. Yet, sadly, I was just unable to get into it. The very best thing about All the Stars and Teeth was its world-building. Beyond this, it unfortunately had many problems.

So let’s begin with that positive. The world-building was not entirely original but was incredibly memorable. The kingdom of Visidia is split across seven islands, all forming a rough ring around the capital city – Arida – where the royal family live. Each of these islands practice a different kind of magic, which range from elemental control to the ability to bind curses to inanimate objects. Everyone is only permitted to learn one kind of magic as these keeps away some kind of mythological monster that preys on people who learn multiple types of magic.

While this setting did show a lot of promise, I was disappointed that the novel did not really take the time to truly explore this. A lot of what we learn about the world is revealed through heavy exposition in the early chapters, and Amora and her crew only briefly visit a couple of the islands. Due to this, there was not a lot of time spent detailing the differences between their cultures, or truly giving the reader the chance to appreciate the intricacies of each school of magic.

The plot of All the Stars and Teeth is a little by the numbers. While early chapters were quick to draw me in, especially as Amora revealed her grisly soul magic, the novel started to lose me as she left Arida and set out on her journey. From this point onward, the story became a very typical young adult novel. Amora and Bastian are always so focused on their end goal that there is little time spent on development or side quests. They merely head to a couple of small towns to gather everything they need before speeding straight to Kraven’s base for the final confrontation.

Due to this, the pacing of the novel felt unbalanced. After an exciting opening, the rest of the story seemed rather muted. While All the Stars and Teeth was not badly written by any means, the drama in the story came in fits and starts. With the exception of a rather exciting battle against a sea monster, the stakes never felt very high as the group largely just used Amora’s magic or the art of running away to overcome every obstacle.

After a very long build up, the ending of the story also felt incredibly abrupt. The climatic battle against Kraven was over almost as soon as it began and left very few loose ends hanging for the sequel. While I won’t discuss the absolute ending here too closely for fear of spoilers, I was also disappointed by the implications that the final chapters held for Amora. This feels like a risky direction for her character to take and I am concerned what it will spell for her development in the next instalment.

On the subject of characterisation, I did feel that the protagonists of the story very standard. While I did like the fact that Amora balanced an effeminate liking for the finer things in life with being a general bad-ass, she was still a very typical young adult heroine. While the novel addressed how difficult it was to control her magic early on, this was never really touched upon again. Her personally also never really developed as the story progressed, leaving her attitudes relatively unchanged in the climax despite everything that she had learned about the truth behind Zudoh’s exile.

The supporting cast were also a bit forgettable. While Bastian did receive a fair bit of development as the story progressed, revealing many hidden sides to his personality and motivation, the other characters were less fortunate. Ferrick initially exists to provide a weak love triangle with Amora and Bastian, but this is dropped to the side as soon as a second female character is introduced. Vataea could have been an interesting character but we learn very little about her or her mermaid heritage. Her inclusion in the main cast ultimately does not add much to the story beyond providing the characters with a way to Zudoh.

So, to conclude, I was a little bit disappointed by All the Stars and Teeth. While the world-building did show promise, the novel just failed to grip me. Here is hoping that the next instalment of this series is a little more memorable.

All the Stars and Teeth is due for release on 7th July and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

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