‘An Accident Of Stars’ is A Hidden Gem, and It Has Ignited A Love In Me For Portal Fantasies
I picked up ‘An Accident of Stars’ by Foz Meadows entirely based on three things: that beautiful cover, the interesting title, and the promise of a portal fantasy. I’ve never really read from that sub-genre before, but it’s something I’ve always been intrigued by. Plus, the book was reasonably-priced so I thought: why not? I’m happy to report that this was very much a happy accident. 🎉
An Accident of Stars Synopsis:
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in a magical realm on the brink of civil war.
There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women. Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.
Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?
Read full synopsis here
To say I was pleasantly surprised by An Accident of Stars would be an understatement. I enjoyed this first book to the Manifold Worlds series way more than I thought I would. And I genuinely think a lot more people should check it out! It has a pretty wild adventure story at its core, with a band of unique characters, and a deeply enjoyable writing style.
With this, the main things I want to highlight in this review are three things: its beautiful representation (of a number of minority groups), the world-building (that’s strong in some aspects and weak at others), and the story progression that will leave you satisfied.
Let’s dive into it ~~
Foz Meadows is a genderqueer author, and she did a remarkable job at reflecting queerness in her characters. In fact, I’m convinced bisexuality is the norm in this world, as the characters all seem to have fluid preferences in partners. Granted, this novel is not romance-driven AT ALL, and there’s very little moments of heart flutters and butterflies. But, the relationships that are highlighted feature romantic and character arcs that you don’t really see much in fiction. Namely, a trans sapphic love interest, a polygamous culture of various “marriage mates”, and an aromatic woman who enjoys companionship and intimacy.
I also noticed that a lot of the most powerful characters in An Accident of Stars are middle-aged women. 👸🏻 Specific ages weren’t really disclosed throughout the book, and I must admit that that was a bit confusing. However, being that Saffron is from Earth, I trust her descriptions the most. That’s because she’s understanding things from our same context. According to her, a fair share of women in our core cast seem to be over the age of 40.And they’re kicking ass. They’re leading revolutions, heating up romances, and heading battles against fully-armed soldiers.
The power of children is also quite apparent throughout this novel. We have Saffron who’s a high school student; a Queen who’s younger than her; and two acolytes who are even younger than both of them. All of them play such a crucial role in progressing the plot. And I think it’s actually impressive that Meadows was able to highlight them just as well as the older cast.
A few small details of representation present in this narrative as well are the following:
- People of color. 🤝
- It’s amazing how Foz Meadows wrote color into An Accident of Stars without it really meaning anything more than where a person came from geographically. It doesn’t have any racist undertones to it. In fact, there’s a bit in the story where Saffron (who is white) calls out her own internalized racism. She can’t wrap her head around the fact that a young, brown woman can be a Queen. To unlearn this, she took some time to dissect her own unconscious bias, and tried to see color the way these people did: simply marks of where you’re from.
- With that being said, though, the central city where our story takes off is in a predominantly Brown/Black area. So a lot of our protagonists are people of darker skin colors. Whiteness is not as commonplace, but that’s purely because of geography. Nothing more.
- People with disabilities. ♿️
- As the world where this story takes place is in the brink of a civil war, there’s bound to be a lot of battles happening. Because of this, injury and disability aren’t unexpected at all. It’s notable, however, that we have two important characters who have some sort of physical affliction. Without spoilers, there’s one character who was poisoned in the past, so half of her body is indisposed. Meanwhile, one character has magic so strong, it takes a toll on her body, leaving her sick in bed for majority of the first book. Despite these facts, they are still crucial members of our main circles, and their voices carry more impact than others.
The world Foz Meadows created in An Accident of Stars is both new and familiar at the same time. Which I’m not sure is exactly the best combo for a portal fantasy… 😅
World-building as far as cultures, hierarchies, ideologies, and different groups of people were great. There were clear lines between the different groups and what each of their motivations were. In turn, these are based on how they were brought up in their respective cultures. But, there were also a lot of instances where the “other world”-ness was lacking.
For example, in the cover, we can see a roa, a creature that the people of this world ride for transportation. Whenever it’s present in the scene, I always feel as if we’re in an entirely different world–because we are. But after the half point, we’ve traded our roas for real horses in the interest of speed. It just loses that “foreign world” feeling. It’s a minor detail that’s not really a big problem, but I just wanted to point it out because later on I noticed myself forgetting we were in an entirely different planet.
On the other hand, An Accident of Stars presented unique branches of magic that added to its world. Portal-opening, healing, and language learning are just some of the abilities highlighted (and I hope there’s more). What we somewhat lacked in physical setting was undoubtedly made up for through the magic. Especially because magic defined so much of who these people are, and where they came from.
Mad props for that. 🙌🏼
Saffron came into the world as an accident. Yet, through that accident she has found herself as an incredibly valuable person in the tide of events, and the changing of this world. It’s interesting because as I was reading through this book, I challenged the book to answer these q’s: Why is Saffron here? Is her only role to be a spectator so we can see these events from her POV? Is she important in this story? Did this really need to be a portal fantasy?
By the end of the first book, I must say that these questions were satisfied. Yes, Saffron is vital to the progression of this story. It hits you near the end, but it makes the journey all the more rewarding.
Writing + Pacing
In terms of overall storytelling and writing, Foz Meadows is an AMAZING writer. To be completely honest, IDK if I’ll enjoy An Accident of Stars as much as I did if it wasn’t through her creative writing. There were bits that were info dump-y, but the writing was really good so it was still an enjoyable experience.
While the story really takes off about 40% into the book, the first part was still as action-packed and exciting. Of course, there was Saffron’s introduction to Gwen and this whole world. But there were also all the foundational moments of her early days with the rest of the group, and how it ultimately founded her relationship with them. Saffron’s story from Earth to Kena and her adjusting to everything wasn’t rushed at all. I’m pretty sure I would have reacted the same way as she did in most occasions.
Lastly, the story didn’t end in a cliffhanger. So it was actually very fulfilling to finish. Yes, there were political conflicts that still needed resolving. But somehow, those didn’t really feel entirely crucial at this point. It was more of these characters’ individual growth, how they realized their roles in the world’s story, and how Saffron fits in the picture. It was also about Saffron’s journey home–wherever that may be.
Final Verdict: An Accident of Stars
Read this book if: you want to check out the portal fantasy sub-genre. This is a good way to start. It’s rich, diverse, and wholly human, and it’s easy to care about these characters and reaching their individual goals in this foreign world.
Read this book if: you want a woman empowering story, primarily one with young and middle-aged women finding their role in this world. (And kicking ass!)
- Opens the book with an act of harassment,
- “Boys will be boys” behavior,
- First kill,
- Graphic mutilation,
- There’s a part where Saffron says that when she tells the people back home she’s been “abducted”, the first thing they’ll think is that her abductor has a mental illness. That breaks her heart, but she knows no one will believe her. It was written responsibly, but it’s still a pretty harrowing thing to read about. Especially knowing that it’s definitely what’s going to happen in real life.
In most parts, I had to check with myself if I was 100% understanding what was going on with everything. Sometimes, the answer was no. But this was one of those instances where enjoyment overrides information. And I enjoyed this book way more than I fully grasped it.
It might have been an “accident” of sorts that I picked this book up, but it’s one I’m definitely going to see through to the end. I’m going to hunt down the sequel “A Tyranny of Queens” to meet with these characters again, for sure.