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Manifold Worlds #1

An Accident of Stars

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When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, 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.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

494 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published August 2, 2016

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About the author

Foz Meadows

21 books703 followers
Foz Meadows is a queer SFF author living in California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 251 reviews
Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews311 followers
October 16, 2021
An amazingly rich portal fantasy, both in terms of story and characters.

The storyline is deceptively simple: teen girl follows another traveller into a portal that leads to another world. The other world is in the midst of political upheaval, and the main character, Saffron, gets drawn into this.

What makes An Accident of Stars different is that, among other things, Saffron is not a Chosen One in the story. She has no special skills that will turn her into a key player, and she's not running away from trouble at home. She is an average girl from a happy home; and while of course she has some distant longing for adventure, she also misses her family.

There are a range of wonderfully developed and diverse characters in the book, but what really stuck out for me was how very realistic and true to life they seemed. For example, the book deals exceptionally well in acknowledging the discomfort Saffron has at the prospect of having to be taught by a young, and confidently attractive man. Her experience as a young woman in her own world has included both unwanted and vulgar sexual advances, compounded by adult men in a position of power dismissing such behaviour as "boys will be boys". The stinging anger and feelings of helplessness Saffron feels, the opposed feelings of possible attraction and slight fear, the unconfident place of a teen just beginning to acknowledge and think about her bisexuality are right on point, and well integrated into her character.

Another main character, Gwen, is equally well treated as a middle aged woman who is aromantic, yet still craves the intimacy of a loving relationship and acknowledges her enjoyment of sex separately from these. The complete richness of the characters and the detail of their human-ness is extraordinarily impressive.

If the characters are impressively rich, the world building is equally so. The various political and social structures that exist are well thought out and create a place that truly seems different from our own world, yet not implausible.

The story itself does take a bit of time to ramp up, but once it does, there is no stopping it. There is no question that I will read the sequel, A Tyranny of Queens, which apparently deals with the aftermath of Saffron's travels through the portal. While there is no real cliffhanger to resolve, there is certainly more of the story to tell.
Profile Image for Carly.
456 reviews185 followers
July 6, 2016
Until the death of Google Reader, I was a regular subscriber to Foz Meadows' blog, so I was absolutely delighted to have the chance to read her book. I think I would have been absolutely captivated by Accident of Stars when I was younger. Thematically, it's a coming-of-age story in a creative high fantasy world, and not only are the majority of protagonists teenagers, but the story is also blissfully devoid of love triangles, self-image issues, and school-related angst. Sadly, I've since become rather more jaded. The story is an homage to traditional high fantasy, but with a strongly feminist slant. As an almost exact contrast to standard epic fantasy, almost all of the characters of importance--protagonists, villains, and everything in between-- are female. Pure gender swapping was observable in everything from the matriarchal societies to the female role as warrior to the fact that in this world, it's women who can't ask for directions because
"Women were gifted by Sahu with the knowledge of orientation: admitting failure in that respect would open her up to mockery."
The message of the story, too, are equally blatant. Possibly because I was so cognizant of Meadows' role as social commentator, the feminism and seemed rather self-conscious to me. It's all fun, but felt so very self-aware that it prevented me from really getting into the flow of the story.

Accident of Stars follows something of a good-evil dichotomy of traditional epic fantasy. Our usurping villains are apparently Evil Incorporated™, even though we see very little of their dastardly plans, possibly because they're so much an afterthought to the meat of the tale. At least one of the villains appears to be evil for the sake of evil; the other has a motivation right out of an 1890s morality tale. The characters themselves never quite came alive to me, perhaps because so much of their personalities and interactions are driven by the plot. I saw Gwen as the clearest example of this: although born on earth, Gwen creates a life for herself on the other world, including two partners and a child. Yet while she thinks about them often, it's in a plot-driven way: her lovers remain utter nonentities, their entire characters limited to their names and genders. I felt that the characters were shaped by the plot and message, not the other way around. The character I found most intriguing--and, not coincidentally, the only one I felt escaped the good-evil dichotomy-- was Yasha, a dictatorial outcast matriarch whose motives are murky for much of the story.

Even though I loved how Meadows eschewed a white default, I was somewhat troubled by the treatment of race and ethnicity. One of my major irritations is when authors reflect an oversimplification of the ethnicities of our world into theirs. In this case, apparently being black means you're Uyun. That's right; apparently your skin tone dictates your nationality, ethnicity, and culture, all in one go. Even though Uyuns live in other cities, their skin color defines them. No matter how self-consciously Meadows tries to explore racial issues, everything in the world she creates seems to depend on skincolor--nationality, culture, religion. Is there no intermixing, no sharing of cultures here? Why does everyone assume the black person from Earth is Uyun and thus apparently from that country rather than the area she lives in? I admit I'm disappointed. I would have expected her to have picked up on how problematic and limiting a skin-color-equals-nationality-equals-culture setup can be.

I'm not sure what genre is targeted, but personally I feel that this fits comfortably into the YA framework. Sure, parents may be a little uncomfortable at the idea of polyamory, but nothing is graphic, and the general themes-- empowerment, coming of age, etc-- seem to fit the genre rather well. I think this is the type of book I would have utterly adored as a high-schooler. It creates a world of acceptance and feminism, a sharp contrast to the rigid gender roles so often seen in high fantasy. If you're looking for a modern take on Narnia-style worlds-through-portals, Accident of Stars is worth a look.

~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Angry Robot Books, in exchange for my (depressingly) honest review.~~

Cross-posted on BookLikes.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 150 books37.5k followers
August 30, 2016
I keep hearing third-hand that publishers all believe that portal fantasies don’t sell, and yet when I talk to other readers, a vast percentage of those who like fantasy sigh and wish there were more portal fantasies.

As a kid I certainly loved them, except for the endings. I hated the endings wherein the kids arrived back the day they left, like nothing had changed—including their experiences shaping them—and I loathed the utter betrayal of the memories being taken away “for their own good.”

Well, Foz Meadows takes that weasel ending on with guns blazing in this fantasy in which Saffron Coulter, a teenager bullied by creeps at high school, is rescued by an odd but interesting woman named Gwen. When Saffron goes to find Gwen, she gets swept inadvertently through a portal into another world along with Gwen.

I have to admit that once Saffron got to the other world, I found it hard going for a while. There seemed to be no sense of wonder, instead, Gwen unloaded a massive data dump about the world onto Saffron in a way that was so fast, allowing no time for experience much less emotional reaction in story form, that it felt kind of like ticking All the Feminism Boxes. Matriarchy, check: all colors of skin equal or irrelevant, check: polyamory, check: gender variety in love, and women with sexual freedom, check, check, check.

But about a quarter of the way through, Saffron has an experience that hit her, and me as reader, like lightning, and the story snapped into urgency. From then on it never let up, as Saffron tries to deal with what happened to her, meets other teens (Zech, the mottled reject between two cultures, and Viya, a spoiled, badly abused runaway queen) as well as some tough old women who are still very much players.

Getting justice for Viya, who was betrayed by the slimy king Leoden and his equally betraying favorite Kadeja, drives the rest of the plot, as we encounter magic, female fighters, wanderers whose dedication is to Story, magical beasts, cultural clashes, gods and goddesses.

It’s not perfect: that beginning was hard going, at least for me; Gwen’s polyamory seemed tacked on as we don’t ever experience her thinking about her partners much less being with them , and there are one or two minor bobbles, like a lot of other-world names and terms that sound kind of the same, and a poisoned, half-paralyzed character sitting down “gracefully” (I’ve cared for a half-paralyzed person, and briefly been one when I had a stroke, and trust me, there is no grace whatsoever to it, however there might be dignity) but overall this was a compelling tale with a powerful ending that left me gasping, and craving more, even while I was wiping away tears.

I hope that Saffron and I will be back soon for the next adventure!

Copy received from NetGalley
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
737 reviews1,259 followers
April 24, 2018
There were many aspects I enjoyed about An Accident of Stars even though the story never developed to its fullest potential. It’s a fun, light read for those who like classic portal-fantasies.

The diverse cast of characters (boasting some LGBT awesomeness) were easily the best component of the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading each POV (which bounced around in almost an omniscient style at times) and appreciated how well developed they all were. Even during the slower moments, my interest in the characters kept me engaged.

The book also impressed me with its creatively constructed clash of original cultures. Primarily two very distinct peoples with clear customs, religions, and styles. They were so interesting to read about that I wish all of the other world building elements had reached this level of development.

Most of the settings and overall atmosphere creation were decent, but there were definitely a few elements that could’ve been pushed further. The author had the framework and creativity to present a completely original world, but seemed to choose the easy way out when it mattered the most. The use of horses as mounts (when there was already a substitute built into the story – see cover image) is a great example of what I mean. I’m not gonna lie, seeing the Roa on the cover was one of my main reasons for picking up the book, as I was hoping it was an indication that the story would contain a plethora of original flora and fauna. The presence of horses (and a few other blatantly “our world” elements) dissolved the magic for me a bit. It was on the cusp of being what I wanted so many times before pulling back that I can’t help but feel it an opportunity wasted.

Another element that fell shy of my expectations was the politics. As I mentioned, Meadows did a great job setting up unique cultures and religions, and even set the stage right off the bat for an interesting government… but then really didn’t do anything with it for the rest of the book. I was expecting something so much more complex, but the focus was definitely on looking from the bottom-up (how everyone is affected) than from the top-down (how to affect everyone else), so the plot came off as reactionary. This may not bother some readers as much as it did me. I’ve just been immersing myself in fantasy novels abundant in political intrigue and complex plotlines lately that the straightforward non-involvement of political movement really stuck out as a deficiency to me.

My final thoughts are on the general pacing of the novel. The first half of the book contained a lot of “organizing,” where it sort of felt like the plot stalled while key players were moved into position. Generally speaking, I don’t usually mind this as long as the characters and their dynamics are interesting, as was the case here. What I ultimately object to is that if the book is going to build towards something, there’d better be a payoff. Unfortunately I don’t think the juice was worth the squeeze in this instance. The story didn’t really do anything after all of that preparation that it couldn’t have done by just jumping straight into the action. In summation: I didn’t mind it while I was reading (because the characters were bomb), but in hindsight I’m not really happy with where the story went. That is, until the very end. So many interesting things were introduced within the last 5% of the book that I’m actually excited to continue on. Hopefully all the things on the cusp in this book will slam dunk in the next one.

Overall, as my points emphasize, I think this could’ve been something truly amazing, but in the end it was just a solid “I liked it” kind of book. I have a positive attitude towards the author’s writing and look forward to seeing if she’ll develop her ideas to the next-level in future books.

Recommendations: I’d hand this to fantasy readers who love that classic portal-fantasy storyline. It gets bonus points for equally interesting and diverse LGBT characters who carry the story through some slower moments. A fun read.

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

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Green Rider (Green Rider, #1) by Kristen Britain Heart of the Mirage (Mirage Makers, #1) by Glenda Larke The Magicians' Guild (Black Magician Trilogy, #1) by Trudi Canavan The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1) by Rae Carson Warbreaker (Warbreaker, #1) by Brandon Sanderson
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews228 followers
May 25, 2017
A modern Australian teenager follows a mysterious woman through a portal between worlds in this engaging fantasy with strong feminist elements as well as a racially and sexually diverse world where polyamory is the norm. The story features a cast primarily of women, and of many different age groups and also shows much more realistic outcomes of and reactions to violence than you see in most fantasy books.

Saffron inadvertently becomes a "worldwalker" by following fellow worldwalker Gwen into her adopted world. Unfortunately an early accidental separation and encounter with one of the antagonists results in horrible consequences for Saffron before she can even fully understands what's happening to her. Saffron is rescued and finds herself in the country of Kena, but in a compound of a family of a neighboring country. There she finds friends and help and a much bigger story than just a visitor from our world having an adventure.

I really appreciated the world-building, and a fantasy world that acknowledges menstruation and contraception is a welcome change, let alone actually acknowledging trauma and outcomes of bloody battle.

However, I didn't love this. There's a word mentioned in the book that has a reflection in the structure of the book: zejhasa, meaning "the braided path". Once characters are introduced, they can become point-of-view characters soon after and the book follows whoever it needs to to tell the story. There are parts where Saffron is an important character, others where Gwen or Zech are, but the book doesn't really even have a main character as such. It's a braided path among many, many characters.

How that ends up translating for me is that I just didn't care that much. As well, early indications that stakes are really high serve as a warning not to get too attached to anyone, and when major characters eventually do suffer something horrible, it's a really bad sign that my reaction is more "oh, that's a shame" rather than "oh no!!".

If I was grading on having all the things I want to see in an epic fantasy book, it'd be a 5. However, the actual craft of the storytelling just threw out so much of that great work for me.
Profile Image for Maja Ingrid.
460 reviews132 followers
September 25, 2020
Smaller updates because the more I think about this book, the angrier I get.
This book had so much potential. So much. But it falls flat on so many aspects.

But let’s begin with the good stuff. The cast is almost dominantly female with only a few male characters. It’s also got a lot of lgbtqa+ representation. The rep is both awesome, because fantasy needs more of it, but at times it felt Meadows tried a little too hard being diverse and inclusive, but not exploring everything that's included on a deeper surface. But yeah, one of the main characters, Saffron, is bi with a preference for ladies. Gwen, claims to be aromantic, but sparks still flew when she got a little intimate with another character. Polyamory marriages seem to be the norm. The marriages, however, are mostly just mentioned so we never really get to see them play out, which was a disappointment. They sounded interesting and it's not often you come across polyamory in fantasy. It's not difficult to show it either, just have a couple of scenes/chapters play out in a polyamory household and show how the different parts in the marriage interact.

Saffron, however, gets to be a little with another girl, which makes me happy and I hope they get together more in the next book (which I will not read, but I can pretend they do). This girl turns out to be transgender. And I have ISSUES with how it’s revealed. Saffron is told about this from a third character and it’s only because the transgender girl can’t go through a certain “ritual” because she's transgender. The character has gone through a complete transition (pre-book) with the help of magic, but because it was done under the “wrong” god, it’s seen as “dirty”. Had her transition happened under the “right” god she would have been seen as “cleaner”, not that it would have mattered for the ritual in question so why it even was brought up right then I don’t know. It felt very problematic. (and having your only transgender character be FULLY transitioned (meaning complete female anatomical bits) is like, "look at me having a transgender character where's my cookie" but without having to deal with issues transpeople have to deal with).

Plotwise, the book doesn’t have much to come with. It was all in all very underwhelming. Saffron comes to this new world after following Gwen through a portal, a world that apparently needs saving from its ruler. It’s a real slow going until everything happens at the same time and still ends anti-climactic and with a cliff-hanger. The book ended before stuff properly started, and Saffron's part in it, and her being there at all felt a little unnecessary because the only thing she was there for could have been avoided.

The characters were a bit lacking as well. It was great there were lots of women, but does that really matter when you can’t remember who’s who because some names are very similar and the majority lacks personality

Now to technical stuff. This was so bad like, I don’t even know how it passed through editing:
1. Let’s begin with POV-changes: It was inconsistent. Sometimes, though very seldom, a clean break with empty lines and a little symbol to indicate the break; sometimes just an empty line; and sometimes the shift just melted into the next paragraph with absolutely no warning. A character could be in the middle of doing something but next paragraph we moved not only to a new character but to a new place too. It was jarring to say the least but the inconsistency in breaks makes it look sloppy.
2. Next thing is that sometimes there aren’t new paragraphs when dialogue switch between characters, which makes it difficult to figure out who’s talking. It can be a dialogue line, then some text, then new dialogue line, text, dialogue line within the same paragraph. Sometimes dialogues appear right after each other which makes it looks like the author pressed space instead of enter.
3. Then it also were some minor typos here and there. Authors are people too, so nothing is completely flawless. But bringing this up anyway because I’m petty and mad about everything else.
Profile Image for Claudie Arseneault.
Author 19 books408 followers
June 7, 2017
I'm having a hard time putting stars on this book, or on my opinions of it. The bottom line, however, is that I liked it. I enjoyed myself. And if people asked me if it was worth the time, then yes, I definitely think it is.

Before I go on, this book comes with major tw for gore, violence, mutilation. If descriptions of physical violence, wounds, blood, scars, etc. are hard for you, proceed with caution.

Now... novel is full of women. Seriously, massive amount of women characters. Almost every single important character is a woman, which was super refreshing for me. Reading AN ACCIDENT OF STARS in many ways felt like going back to old roots of epic fantasy, throne games, and etc. -- but with a ton more women! And these women are also super-duper queer for the most part!

Honestly, AN ACCIDENT OF STARS could have been downright "yes amazing give me more right now!!" but there's ... a spark missing. Something in the writing never quite hooked me. I liked the story well enough. I liked the characters well enough. I liked the world well enough, too (a LOT when it comes to Shavatkiin actually). BUT. It often felt like I could never get deeper than 'well enough'.

I think part of the problem is that apart from two characters (Viya and Zech), I never got the sense of big character arcs, nor did I really get such a good feel of who they were. Like... Saffron is still "a teenage girl from Australia" to my mind, with the main difference that she toughened up to physical harm. They aren't flat characters--they're nice to see interact on the page, between each other and the plot, but mostly... I still can't really imagine them out of the plot, which is always a massive indicator of whether or not I got a good grasp on a character to me. And since characters drive my reading tastes more than plot, this is perhaps the biggest contributor to this story never taking off properly in my heart. I have a few issues with the craft, too, one of which is Foz Meadows' tendency to zoom out of a scene when plans are made/information is revealed for Later Story Twists, but in general the writing here is great. The descriptions, in particular, are quite evocative.

I feel like I'm saying a *lot* of bad things, but this is fundamentally a good book, and I'll certainly pick up the rest of the series! It's kind of like... lots of good things that I think could have been Even More Amazing, but the good things are still there!

On to the Aromantic rep
This is the BEST PART OF THE BOOK haha. I'm only slightly kidding. I started bracing myself for microaggressions or mishaps, and made it through unscathed on that front. And that is so rare. I might have missed something, of course, as different aro peeps are sensible to different things. Gwen, for the record, is the aromantic character. She is an older worldwalker (from Earth, like Saffron) in a polyamorous triad. And this is one of the very rare aromantic character I know of that isn't also ace spectrum.

- Despite being older, Gwen is not characterized as undesirable or cold. Aromantics (especially ace ones) are often the ones no one wants to deal with, the bitter old people or the otherwise ostracized. This isn't Gwen's case.
- Gwen's polyamory is not presented as a way for her partners to ~get that sweet romance~. It's clearly established they accept her aromanticism and that it isn't a diminished form of love. Nowhere did I feel like Gwen's aromanticism made her an insufficient partner (Kena's culture of polyamory as standard works in favour of this quite a lot).

Another major point is that most of the Important Relationships in this book are tied to friendship and family (motherhood, specifically). Romance is not the center, even though some of it does happen, so :D This is essentially the kind of aromantic rep I like from non aromantic writers: a solid character which doesn't fit stereotypes or reinforces harmful tropes.
Profile Image for Jacqie.
1,653 reviews80 followers
August 1, 2016
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Take a look at the cover. Do you like it? That will tell you whether or not you'll like this book. See how old-school it looks? How much like one of those pulpy fantasies from the 80's? How vaguely YA?

I am still wondering if this book is a re-release, somehow, despite my research, because it reads so VERY MUCH like one of the old 80's portal fantasies. And to be honest, that's what attracted me to the book in the first place. I like portal fantasies for all the reasons that anyone likes them- it's a great what-if, it's fun to put yourself in the "chosen one" position, it's fun to learn about a new world through the eyes of someone like yourself. Unfortunately, I got impatient with this book in a hurry. It really feels like it's channeling old Mercedes Lackey or Robin McKinley or Diane Duane. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but the book took so much time over things that I've read so many times before. There were a couple of chapters of set-up, showing that our heroine and reader stand-in, Saffron, is a smart girl who deals with icky sexist boys all the time and is misunderstood and stressed. Her guide into the new world is called Gwen, herself a world-walker. Gwen feels just like those older characters in the Valdemar books who think a lot and are sensible and mature. By this, I mean that the character's thoughts give you backstory, they show tolerance and kindness, and there's no real way you can dislike this very nice person.

It's very clear that the author has put a lot of thought into her portal world. There are at least 3 distinct cultures, all with their own garments, takes on gender roles, and value systems. There's a very complicated political backstory that Saffron bumbles into. But, sadly for a portal world fantasy, I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. After heading into this strange new world, Saffron is wrapped up in a foreign garment to hide her schoolgirl clothes, mounted on a tauntaun-like beast (like on the cover) and made to ride for miles and miles (I have my doubts about riding such a critter for days at a time without having any idea how to direct one) until she gets to a giant city, at which point she is expected to blend in with the locals despite being given no real preparation for anything, because Gwen will answer specific questions but doesn't think to actually educate this girl about this entirely foreign place, so that we the readers can experience just how different everything is without an explanation. The pacing just felt off. You're the author, why put your characters in a place where they have to ride for days to get anywhere but then not use that time to help your fish-out-of -water character acclimate in any way?

It felt like the point of this book was to show how you could write a diverse, inclusive fantasy. Saffron is gay and just figuring that out. Most of the characters on this new world have dark skin, and of course very different cultures. At least one society is matriarchal. Polyamory is accepted and indeed required if you are a ruler. And good for the author for deciding to deliberately be inclusive of all these things. To me, though, it felt like while she was trying just a little too hard to subvert every trope she could, she didn't actually know what she wanted to DO with her world. It was so noticeable to me that I didn't enjoy the book much, because most characters felt more like deliberate author choices to be different than they felt like actual people. I had a hard time feeling meaningful relationships between characters and had a hard time latching onto any character to care about because there just wasn't that much to care about, once you were past physical description. At least that's how the book read for me, like a Very Special Episode of A Different World or something.

I strongly agree with and want to support authors who are inclusive of different genders, races, and sexual preferences and cultures in science fiction. I think it's hugely important and vital, especially for this genre which is supposed to be able to portray different worlds and a vast universe of possibilities. This particular book was so much about making sure that it ticked all the boxes that it got in the way of making interesting characters or a compelling story. I guess the lesson is that inclusivity should have been the beginning of this book, not the purpose of it.
Profile Image for Sarah (is clearing her shelves).
1,029 reviews146 followers
December 17, 2017
17/12 - I had such high hopes for this one, but from the beginning I felt like the gender and sexual equality were shoved in my face as if the author felt it was necessary to prove that she was capable (maybe that someone was capable) of writing a sci-fi/fantasy that didn't demean women by making them all TSTL or turning them all into Madonnas or whores. Unfortunately, this was just the opposite extreme of books with the aforementioned crappy female characters, which didn't make it much more of a success for me. Sure, I didn't hate all the characters, or the author for making them so terrible, but being beaten over the head with themes as evidence that sci-fi/fantasy can include smart, tough, courageous women who can have loving relationships with whoever they choose wasn't that much fun. I haven't read that much sci-fi, so I haven't had to suffer through years of rubbish female characters, but what I want from contemporary sci-fis is women capably doing everything their male counterparts do. There doesn't need to be any sort of "I told you I could do it just as good as you." feeling to the book or of putting the men in their place. Forcing the all-encompassing inclusivity on me just left a sour taste in my mouth. I will continue searching for a more naturally inclusive sci-fi/fantasy.
Profile Image for Kaa.
564 reviews50 followers
July 15, 2017
I don't LIKE portal fantasy, but I loved this book. The main character's transition from our world to another felt quite believable. It started a little slowly, but once it got going I thought it was very well paced through the rest of the book. It doesn't exactly end with a cliffhanger, but there's a lot left unresolved - fine, I guess I'll be reading the next one. The story also seemed to mature a bit over the course of the book, which I think makes sense for Saffron's character arc, but it's sort of odd to feel that I would recommend the book to different age ranges based on the first few chapters versus the last few.
The cultures of Kena and Veksh were interesting, though I hope Kena in particular will be explored in more depth in the next book. Although the plot was based in political struggles in that country, I didn't feel that it had nearly as distinct a cultural identity as Veksh.
I very much appreciated the diversity of the cast, on several fronts. Any book containing so many queer characters (including at least one trans woman, someone who is aromantic, and a self-described bisexual!) and polyamorous families is already starting out on my good side. This particular book, though, had excellent representation (at least of those identities I am qualified to speak to) and did a fabulous job of normalizing both queerness and womanhood. I found it very refreshing not to have prejudices from our world replicated in the fictional world where most of the story took place.
Profile Image for Robyn.
827 reviews131 followers
May 18, 2017
This gets five stars for sheer enjoyment. Wish fulfilment for every person who has ever read a portal fantasy and questioned how a person would adapt so quickly to medieval standards of living. A wonderful example of how to create societies, for that matter, that don't simply recreate a medieval world. Tons of fun for me!
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,227 reviews873 followers
October 22, 2021
Galley provided by publisher

Rep: wlw mcs

DNF @ 23%

Honestly, watching paint dry would be more interesting than this book. Probably, it was just one of those that wasn't for me. There was nothing about it that I thought was bad per se, but I just didn't connect to any of the characters and the writing bored me.

I was actually bored by it from the first page, which is a shame because I was really looking forward to this one. There's portals between worlds, and magic, and a diverse cast (both racially and sexually), but I just couldn't get past the fact that I was bored to death.

But despite the issue I had with this, I would recommend it, on the off chance that someone finds it better than I do (and because everyone needs more women-loving women in their life).
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
772 reviews1,498 followers
December 9, 2017
An Accident Of Stars is one of those books that, honestly, I always knew I would love. I put off reading it for far too long, because portal fantasy isn’t a trope that particularly appeals to me, but… it’s Foz Meadows, and I’ve been following Meadows’ reviewing and writing on fandom and culture for years now. Her first book is just as brilliant, incisive, thoughtful, and compelling as I always expected it to be, and I confess - I’m more interested in portal fantasy as a trope after reading it.

(Full review on Kogi Reviews.)
2 reviews1 follower
August 21, 2016
I bought this book because I was excited for a feminist world-hopping fantasy with complex female characters driving the story and fascinating new world to explore...

I'm not sure where to begin, because what I found was a book that was an overwhelming frustration and disappointment all around. I almost set it down a dozen different times, and the only thing that had me picking it back up again eventually was the thought of being able to write a true review so others might avoid making the same mistake I did and spending money on this. That, and the hope that it might turn around by the end and pleasantly surprise me. Suffice to say, that didn't happen and I've been flinging myself almost violently into some good old Diane Duane comfort fantasy to wash the bad taste away.

Because while reading this book I often found myself comparing it to some of Duane's older works, ... but in very unfavorable ways. The characters are uniformly flat and uninteresting, lacking real personalities in favor of a tumblr checklist of tropes and talking points. Meadows brings up at least half a dozen important current social issues, but handles them with such clumsiness that I was left with that sense of frustration I mentioned earlier. Because on their own, the points that she tries to hammer into this story would normally be fascinating to explore: polyamory, racism, religious superiority/clashes, feminism, transgender issues, and the broader lgbtq+ community, etc. - I'm sure there were more, but not enough time was spent on anything to do more than allow the author to pat herself on the back for ticking off the tropes. Worse is when that very shallow mentioning of issues actually turns out to be more harmful than anything else! A great deal of emphasis is put on skin color, and how many of the heroines and people in the book are non-white, yet Meadows also falls into the laziness trap of equating skin color with nationality in her three cultural groups that we're given any insight into... and even then, it's only the Kenans (brown) and Vekshi (white) that we get any real (passing) details on - as is so often the case the Uyun people (black) are handwaved away and glossed over as a convenient group for the heroine Gwen to be associated with while in Kena. Oh yes, and to conveniently provide victims to drive the plots of the other characters.

And the characters themselves were very difficult to get behind. When certain characters are injured - repeatedly, and in most cases not really for any good progression of the story - there's no connection to them as there are in other stories; it's more a case of "yes, yes, how many pages of whinging is there going to be before we get back to something vaguely plot related?" and the answer is, all too often "quite a lot." I wanted to loathe Saffron, but it was hard when she was so inconsistent and changed her personality to fit whatever the current plot required her to be and do. She's a classic 'sexy lamp' - as in, you could replace her with a sexy lamp and the story really wouldn't change significantly at all. I ended up feeling a vaguely apathetic hostility in her general direction. And unfortunately most of the characters fell into this trap. They were caricatures driven by the vague plot rather than individuals with motivations and drives of their own. The most interesting characters were the non-POV ones - Yasha, Pix, and Matu - though perhaps they were only interesting because I could use my imagination to ascribe vastly more complex backgrounds and thoughts and schemes going on in their heads than Meadows came up with for any of the POV women.

The romances are much more 'told' than 'shown' except for one - and that falls pretty much straight into the 'love at first sight between two people who don't actually know each other but instantly share a connection' kind. It would be great that it's between two women, except that 'love interest defined entirely by her physical attractiveness to the protagonist' is another one of those characters that doesn't actually get a personality and seems to exist solely to fill that slot - and it's very much another 'check the box, aren't I subversive? Yes I am!' kind of slot.

From a mechanical perspective, the book doesn't suffer from more than the usual amount of typos, but far more problematic is the utterly haphazard way that Meadow inserts paragraph breaks and jumbles dialogue. It's jarring and continually threw me out of the story with annoyance. It's the sort of freshman mistake that I'd hope any basic editing would have caught long before this went to print. Again, it's the lack of consistency that causes the problem: sometimes there is a break when she switches POVs, or skips in time or space to a different event, but sometimes one paragraph just bleeds into the next and it ends with Zech staring at the ceiling and begins with Gwen fretting on horseback (or something similar) and there's a numerous moments of "wait, what?" to contend with. Dialogue from different characters also is usually split up with paragraph breaks, except when it isn't. There are sometimes two to three segments of dialogue contained within the same paragraph that can be from several people speaking, and no context for what words are from which character - and because the personalities are so all over the place even that doesn't help to make it clear without several rereads. Yet most of the dialogue is split up in the usual way, so when it does get all stuffed into the same paragraph it feels particularly jarring and egregious.

The pacing is poor, given to fits and starts, and there is far too much deus machina for the story to feel anything other than sloppily contrived. This book badly needs an editor willing to wield a liberal red pen, because it seems like there should be something worth salvaging in it! ...But what we have instead is a book I'll be using to prop up uneven table legs with, because I wouldn't even donate this to the library book sale, lest someone else end up feeling so betrayed over what should have been so much better. YES it is absolutely important to have more social-commentary-conscious feminist fantasy and science fiction on our shelves! But that doesn't mean we have to be satisfied with sub-par offerings just because the field is still growing. If that means sticking with LeGuin, Duane, Cherryh, and Hines for a while... so be it.
Profile Image for Jack.
288 reviews22 followers
February 27, 2018

An Accident of Stars is one of the most well plotted, well characterised novels I have read in a while. I can't think of one time where I thought "Oh that's silly" or "That doesn't seem plausible". I'm impressed; normally at some point in a novel I will notice an irregularity or some sort which will niggle at the back of my mind. Not in this.


So, An Accident of Stars is a portal fantasy, featuring a large cast of mostly female characters. Primarily we have Saffron, the young protagonist who gets caught up in the adventure when she decides to jump through a portal, becoming a Worldwalker. We have Gwen, an aged and veteran worldwalker, who is tasked with looking out for Saffron. We have Zech, an orphan under the care of Yasha, a foreign matriarch. Then there's Viya, Pix and Matu. It's a large ensemble of characters all of whom have their own motivations and dreams. A lot of the time what they want clashes, and devolves into arguments. This isn't a party of people who get along; they're there because they need each other and have History together. While there is a 'Big Evil' in the background, they're not really actualised until the last chapter or so, and even then their motivations aren't revealed in full. More questions for future novels are put in place.


So, we have the basic premise of girl being transported to a fantasy land. The twist is that the multiverse is a known thing, and worldwalkers, whilst not common, are a known commodity. Straight away we're thrown into a political crises, where at some point in the past, the dastardly prince straight up murdered all contenders to the thrown. He's now planning on getting rid of our main characters, so they end up fleeing the city in search of new allies. Saying anymore would be too spoilery, but it gets veeery interesting after that.

Okay, that's character's and story...what next? No real complaints about the pacing; it all goes along steady enough. Perhaps the ending was a bit rushed, it kinda did go from one to a hundred over the course of a chapter, but that could have been fixed with a bit more exposition describing the meetings and plannings after the trial and subsequent events.

It's also probably notable to point up that gender and sexuality are themes running throughout the story, and are significant to the main characters without actually effecting the story. Saffron notes at the start that the world she's been transported to has much different sensibilities than ours, and as such she lossens up quite a bit over her own sexuality. It's all very well done, in a kind of way that makes itself present while still taking a backseat to everything else. There's also a nice little nod throughout the story for mental health and mental disorders; PTSD, depression and the like are all mentioned. This is done in, what I thought, a very well done manner; the characters acknowledge that what they're going through isn't normal, and that they need help, and the other characters react in sensible and sensitive ways to this! Brilliant. There's also a nod to the stigmatisation of them in our world at the end, which I appreciated.

Okay, I think that's all. Let me know if you think I forgot to highlight anything or missed something important.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,563 reviews2,937 followers
March 9, 2020
I read this book as part of my SFF book club and it was supposed to be the Sci To pick of the month. Turns out, this is much more of a portal fantasy than it is a SF read, but I enjoyed it anyway and as it's my first Foz Meadows title I plan to read more by Foz.

This story is a complex one which spans worlds. We start off with a girl called Saffron (Safi) who is an everyday schoolgirl in Australia. She's annoyed at the way the guys treat her, and when a nice lady called Gwen encourages her not to let them get away with it she decides to follow and thank her. Unfortunately, she follows Gwen through a portal to an entirely different world, Zena...

Saffron and Gwen are two of the main characters in the book as they're both worldhoppers and they can travel between worlds. They each have a story to tell, but it takes a while to get going as immediately in this new world there is a political struggle and a whole lot of trouble. There's a whole world in turmoil under a poor leader, and the book pulls no punches with drama, excitement and antagonists.

Zech is a character who bonds quickly with Safi and we follow their story as two young women trying to navigate the currents of this crazy world. Zech has some bigger secrets to hide and as the plot thickens we learn more about her and her past.

Luy is another character who we get to follow a fair bit. He's a dreamwalker and he is able to influence all sorts of politics from his unique position. I think his involvement was definitely key.

This book doesn't shy away from Polyamory, Gender-Queer, LGBTQ+ and much more. There's a whole load of topics all thrown in and although some felt a little shoe-horned in I found them gratifying to see and I enjoyed the author's exploration of these themes.
A challenge to weave everything together, but I think done well in the end.

Overall, this book took a while to get to grips with because of all the similar names and the way you're thrown into it, however in the end I did like it a lot and found it to be a very readable story. It's the first of a duology and I certainly want to know what happens next and plan to pick up the sequel at some point to find out. I also want to try some others by Foz as this was a strong entry into Foz's writing.

3.75*s overall and definitely a portal fantasy with a lot of imagination and originality.
Profile Image for Lucille.
1,079 reviews209 followers
June 24, 2018
I understand why so many people recommended this to me! Such a great inclusive portal fantasy!
I love the way this dealt with trauma, scars and disability.
I love that most characters were women (cis or trans), that this is a matriarchal world where the male characters were a beautiful man, a kind boy and the bad guy/usurper.
I love that while this isn't a world with equality, the girls and women here never abused or thought less of their male friends and even frowned at the way they were sometimes treated.
I love the themes of friendships, family, motherhood and inclusion of queerness such as aromanticism, polyamorous relationships, bisexuality, etc.
I really had a great time reading this and I wasn't even finished that I already had bought the sequel (the fact that it was super cheap helped tbh) and I can't wait to keep reading! Also I'm sure it's best to not wait too long between the two because the worldbuilding, names and politic were sometimes very complicated to make sense of and remember in the beginning. (the glossary should be put in the front and no the end of the novel PLEASE)
While it wasn't perfect (for example none of the characters really stuck with me that much? I love the novel but it lacked a little something for me to give it 5 stars) I'm glad I read it.

content warning: gore, violence, mutilation, description of physical violence and abuse, wounds, blood, scars.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
November 13, 2018
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

This took me a long time to finish, and I’m not entirely sure why. There’s a lot I love about it — the diversity, the bonds between the characters, the fact that it’s so driven by female characters (in both positive and negative ways), the way things aren’t just simple right and wrong. I mean, Kadeja and Leoden are undeniably pretty evil, which does undermine me saying that somewhat, but Yasha raises doubts at times as well. She’s on the side of the “good” characters, but I’m not convinced she’s always acting for the good of everyone — for interesting character reasons. I love what the book says about grief and healing and love.

On the surface, the intrigue and adventure and the friendships and alliances between the characters should’ve been enough to keep me hooked, and the writing doesn’t throw up some huge barrier or anything. I can’t put my finger on what kept me equivocating about the book, or what kept me from loving it enough that I just consumed it in a rush as I’m completely capable of doing. Something just didn’t work for me.

Which leaves me somewhat surprised that the ending leaves me curious and interested enough that I might just have to pick up the next book right away. Partly that’s because I want a bad thing not to have happened (and it’s a world with magic, so surely there’s a chance), and partly it’s because that ending is pretty interesting in terms of what it sets up (though I find myself largely unsurprised by it).
Profile Image for Perfektionaise.
317 reviews9 followers
April 30, 2022
Great fantasy setting and interesting worldbuilding.
I didn't really connect to any of the characters but that didn't bothered me because the story itself is pretty good.

There are some parts that really are in the need of some work like the change between character perspectives is sometimes done in the middle of a line. That bothered me a lot. Like... give me some visuals like a paragraph.
There are also a lot of missing punctuation marks, wrong words (like there instead of they're) or words written wrong. Guess it could have uses some more editing.

What I really, REALLY liked is the fact, that this story recognises trauma. Like in most stories the MC kills for the first time, get wounded and because they are so badass, they just go on. But in this book the MC, a girl named Saffron, nearly breaks on her first kill. She goes in shock, she has this trauma she is aware off. She gets wounded and it not only she but other characters as well are recognising her trauma and are talking about it. Other characters have to deal with similar problems and it feels soooo good that it is acknowledged that trauma exists and what it means for these young and old persons alike. Finally someone did it in a very respectful way. 🙏
Profile Image for Vigasia.
425 reviews21 followers
October 17, 2020
It was good novel to read on the autumn evening. Something to take my thoughts of some daily stuff. But it was not exceptional and no character made my heart skip so 3 stars.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
784 reviews96 followers
August 17, 2016
This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

This is the first book of the Manifold World series. It's a portal fantasy and a coming-of-age story, with an Australian schoolgirl following a woman who had helped her - and following her through a rift into another world.

Saffron's life is a fairly normal one; it opens with a distinctly unpleasant experience with a boy at school harassing her, and a stranger supporting her as (sadly) almost no one else ever had. In going to thank the woman, her adventures start - and almost immediately they go bad, showing very early on that this is not going to be an easy experience for Saffron (although the language barrier is dealt with through a particularly convenient piece of magic). She eventually discovers that she's wandered into a state whose politics are currently rather grim, and has fallen in with people who aren't exactly the Most Popular Citizens. And then an escapee from the castle ends up finding them, and things get even more fraught, and adventures ensue.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is the sheer diversity of the characters. Most of the leads are female, with a couple of men. There's a wide variety of sexual orientation, from bi to someone I think is aromantic. There's a wide variety of skin colours - you know, like in the real world; a trans character; those who are religious and those who aren't; the magical and the not; old and young; parents and not; and all the other personality quirks that individuals humans can have, from characters with sunny dispositions to those who consistently make you want to leave the room when they enter.

In terms of narrative, there is a lot going on in this book. There's the experiences of Saffron, who has to deal with the strange world she's in and the physical changes forced on her - how will she explain these when/if she gets home? (I was forcefully reminded of Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway.) There's Gwen, the world-walker, trying to manage this new girl as well as her own allegiances and secrets. There are a lot of conflicting allegiances because there's a huge amount of politicking going on: both of the states where most of the action takes place are in difficult positions regarding their leaders, with people trying either actively or passively to change the status quo. Sometimes, indeed, I felt like there was too much going on. I liked that Saffron is forced to deal with the politics of the world she's entered, and that the places she's in are not presented as the only states, and that politics can be confusing. But sometimes I felt like the political situation wasn't explained clearly enough - or, actually, that the problems with the system or the way that people were using the system weren't explained clearly enough for me to care to the level that I ought.

It's a fast-paced story, problems rarely being dealt with before more crop up; there's magic that is difficult to use and requires training; there's a bit of romance but not too much (for my tastes!). There's a bit of traveling-around-the-place and camping but mostly it's urban, and there's a variety of perspectives used to present the narrative too.

I did enjoy reading it, although I'm not left desperately waiting for the next one. The book largely stands by itself - there's a bit of cliffhanger at the end but in terms of the main narrative, it's largely complete, which I appreciated.
Profile Image for Mike.
Author 45 books161 followers
June 2, 2016
Portal fantasy seems to be making a comeback, which is fine by me; I'm not sure why it fell out of fashion in the first place. This one, as you would hope from a new book, does something fresh with it, primarily by splitting the point of view between several different women: a teenage white Australian who goes through the portal more or less by accident, a middle-aged black British woman who's been "world-walking" for a while and is already familiar with the other world, and a couple of even younger teenagers from the other world itself. All of them suffer and struggle, and all of them are deeply impacted by the traumatic events that occur, much more so (and more realistically so) than one usually sees in fantasy.

It was refreshing and enjoyable to see diverse characters; societies in which women had a lot of agency; and perspectives of older as well as younger characters in what was, in many other ways, a classic portal fantasy.

If I had a reservation about the book, it was that so many of the plot turns, especially early on, occurred by coincidence. One could adopt the perspective of the inhabitants of the other world and credit the gods with manipulating events (though there's no clear indication that the gods are real and can do this), and there is also a sect of mystics who do deliberately manipulate events (but can't be credited with most of the coincidences). I found it hard, though, to avoid the feeling that the author was just forcing the plot. Now, it's done subtly; the characters are not handed easy answers, which is how inexperienced authors often commit this mistake. On the contrary, the characters end up a lot more battered, physically and emotionally, than the average fantasy cast. Nevertheless, there is a high degree of coincidence required to get everyone together and moving in the right direction.

This either stopped after a while, or I stopped noticing it, though. I was caught up in the story's flow, even though I was reading an ARC which contained a few not-very-insightful comments from an editor and a good many typos (which I'm sure will not appear in the published version). The language, and the craft, are competent in general, and I cared about the characters, their struggles, and their often-at-risk wellbeing. I'll be watching for further books in what looks set to be an enjoyable series.

I received an advance copy via Netgalley for review.
Profile Image for Llinos.
Author 7 books24 followers
September 13, 2016
This story did so many things that ticked all of my boxes! It delved into the difficulties of magically learning a language without necessarily having the cultural context for it, which was fascinating. It showed communities of women of all ages, working together – and sometimes against each other – and getting stuff done. It spent time thoughtfully exploring the impact of trauma has, particularly on young people – characters are given lots of space to deal with and begin to recover from their experiences. The worldbuilding was magical. The characters were wonderful. The book explored the complexity and bittersweetness of a life lived between worlds. I’m waiting impatiently for the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Kdawg91.
258 reviews14 followers
May 31, 2016
Beautiful storytelling, a stunning world and concept, slow tale to start but the intrigue picks up. My issues are few and they are purely my issues. I don't understand all the polyamory stuff, lately everything I read seems to have huge families, but that will not affect your enjoyment of the story.

Thanks to the robot overlords at Angry Robot for the ARC, this is a great introduction into an amazing world, check it out most definitely.

Profile Image for Nico.
214 reviews11 followers
March 3, 2019
Like Long Way To A Small Angry Planet ruined me for the entire genre of scifi, so did this book for fantasy. Honestly.
This is what fantasy should be like. This is a world I fell into along with Saffron, which confused me as it did her, which grew on me as it sank its fangs into her.
I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. It was written in small font, portal fantasy as a whole was something I'd long outgrown. But my gosh. The pages flew by, and I was enthralled. I wish mahu'kedets were a true thing, I wish I could tumble through a portal into a world that was as merciless as it was free of sexism, of transphobia, of all the gross things that make life so much harder than it needs to be.
This book was vicious as much as a breath of fresh air, and I love the characters, each of them fierce in their own way.
I could go on for hours about all the different relationships and layers to them, about the brilliantly painted characters, the world building. But in the end, it comes down to this: the book was human to the core, and I love it, and I am so grateful to my best friend for gifting it to me.
Profile Image for Juushika.
1,561 reviews166 followers
May 6, 2019
A high school girl follows a stranger through a portal, into a world remarkable for its matriarchies, political turmoil, and magics. This feels like (but isn't) a debut, with numerous niggling flaws: A huge cast of sometimes indistinguishable characters, further complicated by invented words in multiple languages--it's more frustrating to keep track of than it is complicated. Overlong, with a particularly slow start. Transparent earnestness in the themes and messages, with heart-to-hearts that read as wish-fulfillment rather than convincing dialog.

But what good intent! I appreciate the cast, its wealth of women and diversity, and the take on portal fantasy is intriguing. It lacks much of the magic and sense of wonder that distinguishes the trope (and what does come is late and bittersweet), but still invokes and challenges the concept of portal-as-escapism; and it actively engages the question central to most recent portal fantasy: how does the portal world change you? can you ever really go "home"? I wouldn't say it's more robust than similar conversations, despite the explicit focus on trauma, but I appreciate what it contributes to the trope. I enjoyed this book more in concept than in practice, but I will go on to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Jordan Brantley.
182 reviews2 followers
October 6, 2017
Bookworm Speaks!

An Accident of Stars

by Foz Meadows

Acquired: Barnes and Noble Booksellers
Series: The Manifold Worlds (Book 1)
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Angry Robot (August 2, 2016)
Language: English
Subject: Fantasy


The Story: When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, 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.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl - an accidental worldwalker - really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

The Review: Bookworm has to admit: when they saw this book on the shelves of the bookstore, they were very interested. The book had a lot of things going for it. A genderqueer author, a high fantasy adventure, strong female protagonists, and a story that breaks the gender roles that have dominated fantasy as well as fiction for decades. It seemed Bookworm was in for quite the adventure

Upon reading the book though, Bookworm had to admit a sad truth, this one of those times where the author’s ambition proved too much for their skill at writing.

One of the most annoying things about this book is soapboxing of the text.

That is not to say Bookworm does not agree with what the author is trying to say. Bookworm finds what happens to Saffron in the first chapter as infuriating as Saffron and the author does. The history literature though, is littered with the ruins of stories that were used as little better than vehicles for the writers and suffered accordingly. While the political and social platforms were not the sole factor in what brought this book down, they certainly poked a few holes in the bottom of the boat.

‘Unique’ is a word that Bookworm utilizes very often when crafting these reviews. Uniqueness is important in creative venture. A story that stands out is a story that is memorable. Unfortunately this book accomplishes this in the wrong ways. When crafting a story that is intended to appeal to a wide audience, the author needs to strike a balance. The balance is the one between distinctiveness and familiarity. There needs to be enough familiarity within the text to keep the world grounded and the distinctiveness needed to help it stand out. Here, the author might have gone a little too far with the building and/or executed said world building poorly. The reader is bombarded with terms and language and names and it is very easy to lose track of who and what everything is. The text as a whole, lacked familiar threads for Bookworm to latch onto and the result was very confusing.

The best way of saying it, is that perhaps the author would have been wise to give this book one more rewrite and another round of editing. The whole thing never really finds its focus and Bookworm found themselves struggling to get through it. With trying to exemplify so many progressive ideas, such as polyamory and color-blindness, the story is rendered clunky and incoherent at times. There were several times when Bookworm had no real idea what was going on and just had to keep on reading.

Political agendas are nothing new in the world of fiction, but the goal in writing a work of fiction is to tell a story, a story that people will want to read and be entertained by. Try to hard to make a point and the readers will simply end up losing interest in the book’s story.

It is not all bad though. When Saffron comes into focus, her story is really quite compelling. The reader feels sympathy for her right off the bat. Her confusion and her literal and figurative pain of her unusual circumstances is written as very authentic. Saffron is really the best part of the whole novel. Her character growth is an example of how this book serves as an adult version of the ‘portal-fantasy’ a genre of fiction where a normal person from Earth is pulled into a fantasy world. Oftentimes is said stories, they go through the adventure without a scratch and return on the same day that they left. This is not the case with this book, Saffron’s disappearance goes noticed and Saffron suffers as she travels through her new paradigm, leaving scars both mental and physical.

A fantasy that is almost entirely dominated by women is something that needs to be appreciated, make no mistake. Male characters barely appear throughout the book. More authors should take up this author’s lead with female-centric fiction. Unfortunately, there are few more characters than necessary. The amount of point of view shifting or ‘head-hopping’ is extensive and extends the reader’s confusion.

Bookworm thinks that they will read the sequel, if only to find out what happens to Saffron. Hopefully, she will have given her school bully his just desserts. What Bookworm also hopes for is that the author will have refined their writing in the meantime.

Final Verdict: While ambitious and crafted with genuine emotion, this book ultimately falls prey to inconsistent writing, flat characters, and a clumsy story. The social commentary weighs the story down and creates a novel that is severely lacking.

Rating: Two Manifold’s out of Five

Profile Image for Kassie.
284 reviews
September 11, 2018
One of the most thoughtful novels I've read, SFF or not. Its really brought into stark relief how little trauma is given a stage in novels that involve some pretty traumatic things. Highly recommend, I can't wait to start the next one.
Profile Image for Maryam.
506 reviews28 followers
December 27, 2016
Review originally published on The Curious SFF Reader

As I mentionned in last month Wrap-Up I wanted to read lighter books and since I didn’t make a TBR I had the complete liberty to read whatever I wanted (which is a bit unusual for me, I like to plan everything because it reassures me). Because of that I decided to randomly browse the books on my Kindle and I spotted An Accident of Stars that I pre-ordered months ago after reading Coral Bones, her fantastical retelling of The Tempest that I read as a part of the Monstrous Little Voices anthology.

I loved Coral Bones because of how Meadows portrayed female characters, gender and sexuality and I thought that reading about feminism in a portal fantasy could be quite interesting. The cover of An Accident of Stars is incredibly cheesy good lord, this book is fantastic.

First of all, it opens up with Saffron Coulter an ordinary high school students being harassed by one of her classmates. No one seem to caresabout that even the school administrators because for them “it’s a normal behaviour for a young man”. Saffron can’t cope with how normalized sexism is but but unexeceptedly she receives help from a mysterious woman that she mistakes for a professor. In order to thank her, Saffron follows this woman but ends up falling through a portal and, of course, her life is turned upside down.

Just after reading this opening scene, I had a good feeling about this book. First of, I am in an engineering schooml which means that my school is composed of about 70% of men and I am surrounded by every day sexism. Most of the girls at my school do not think that “Women are terrible with computers”, “girls just want to work in biology” or “Why are you upset, do you have your periods?” are sexist remark but I do and everytime I heard them, it’s hard not to loose my shit. So when I started this book, I just thought “Well at least, I am not the only one to feel this way!”.

At first, the plot doesn’t seem particularly original, a crazy and treacherous man is on the throne and of course, one of the person who can help is our hero, Saffron. I don’t have anything against this trope but still, nothing new. What completely sold this book to me is how exciting it was, how much I could relate with all the characters and how much I wanted them all to succeed. This book followed several characters and I care for all of them, even the ones that were a bit annoying because I could understand why they were acting this way.

This is not marketed as YA but if I knew someone that had a 11 to 16 years old daughter, I would push this book into their hands. I mean, it could be enjoyed by everyone but I wish I could have read this when I was younger. This book doesn’t have any self-image issue, any love triangle, any angst, any of the things that are so in vogue currently in the YA genre.

This book does have several romances between person that love and respect each other a lot and it’s a pleasure to read. In this book you’ll find heterosexual, lesbian and polyamorous relationships. One of the main point of this book is to show that, as long as everything is consensual, you can have relationships with anyone and that it shouldn’t be judge by anyone because it doesn’t concern them. The main character is openly bisexual (with a slight preference for girls) and it is never seen as problem for her because it doesn’t have any reason to be. She never once puts in question her sexuality because that’s a part of who she is and she finds it normal. I just wish more books were like that.

One of the other thing that I loved about this book is that An Accident of Stars is, without a doubt, an hommage to traditional epic fantasy yet with its own twists. For example, most of the characters in this books are female characters which is refreshing. However, it doesn’t mean that it is builds around a reverse sexism, the male characters in this novel are awesome and they are an important part of the story too.

The first quarter of this book could be a bit hard for some reader because it’s true that a lot of info is thrown at the reader. I didn’t mind it whatsoever because I’ve read my share of epic fantasy and I am pretty quick to adapt to new worlds but I have seen this complain in several reviews on Goodreads, so I figured I would still mentionned it.

In my opinion, this book deserves a million of stars but that I might have been because it was the right time to read, it’s hard to “judge” five books, I don’t know about you but when I rate a book five stars, I always ask myself if I would still give it the same rating after a reread and of course, it’s hard to know. It’s why I first rated this a 4.5* but after a bit of reflexion, I can’t think to any reasons why I doesn’t deserve a five stars. So a five stars it is!

Highly recommended.
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832 reviews231 followers
July 19, 2016
An Accident of Stars is a queer feminist portal fantasy told from the point of views of four female characters. Saffron is a high school student in Australia who follows a strange woman through a portal and enters another world, Kena. While born on earth, Gwen has been traveling to Kena for over thirty years and considers it home. She even became involved in local politics and made an unwise choice in supporting a man called Leoden in his bid for the throne. Now Gwen and her allies are hunted by him, including Zech, the adopted granddaughter of an exiled matriarch, and Viya, Leoden’s runaway consort.

An Accident of Stars hits a lot of high points for me. For one, it has a greater focus on the relationships between female characters than almost any fantasy novel I’ve seen. I particularly loved the mentor/student relationship between Gwen and Saffron. While the official blurb frames Saffron as the protagonist, I think that’s belittling the role played by the other POV characters. Saffron serves as a clear reader insert but all four women have their own story lines and no one receives the clear majority of page time.

I also enjoyed the world building of An Accident of Stars. It has that vivid quality that makes the world practically leap off the page. While it’s not as strange or otherworldly as some fantasies I’ve read, Meadows did put thought into making Kena unique and different from the rest of the SFF section of the bookstore. For instance, the primary social ties in Kena are based around polyamorous marriages, which plays a role in the political intrigue. All in all, An Accident of Stars feels fresh and original.

There’s also a huge amount of diversity to the book’s cast. Gwen is the first explicitly, the-word-is-used, aromantic protagonist I’ve encountered. Saffron also explicitly identifies herself as bisexual, which seems to be considered the norm for Kena. Beyond orientation, Gwen’s a middle aged black woman who is amazingly badass and gets to carry large parts of the story and Kena itself consists mainly of brown skinned people.

Unlike a lot of the big name recent fantasy series, An Accident of Stars is not grimdark. That doesn’t mean that there’s not pain and suffering – Saffron encounters some pretty quickly upon her arrival to Kena, and the battle scenes are harrowing sequences that scar the protagonists both physically and mentally. However, for all that An Accident of Stars never has the unrelenting darkness of grimdark fantasy. Our protagonists are not anti-heroines but heroines. They may be flawed, but at heart they are good people who I grew to like and care about.

This isn’t to say that An Accident of Stars is without its flaws. While functional, the plotting was never compelling and the story lacked a sense of urgency. Leodan was not an interesting villain. We’re told of some of the horrible things he’s done, but for the most part he just feels bland. On the other hand, his consort Kadeja establishes herself as a dangerous character from her very first scene. Still, the ending of the book gives me hope that the plotting could amp up in future installments. The only other grievance I have to point out is that Saffron sometimes felt like a vehicle for worldbuilding info dumps.

The ending of An Accident of Stars left me much more emotional than I would have suspected upon the beginning, thanks to a surprise plot twist that I honestly did not see coming and that leaves me yearning for the second book. An Accident of Stars is one of the most promising starts to any series right now, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

I received an ARC of An Accident of Stars from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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