Date Published: August 2, 2016
Published By: Angry Robot
Number of Pages: 496
Synopsis: 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.
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 young woman – a very accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena?
An Accident of Stars is a refreshing, feminist fantasy with an incredible cast of complex, dynamic characters and spectacular worldbuilding.
It has been described as ‘Narnia for grownups’ but it is so much more than that. Yes, there are the familiar portal-fantasy tropes – a character from modern-day Earth finds a doorway into another world and goes on a fantastic series of adventures. But Foz Meadows puts her own unique twist on it – there isn’t just one alternate dimension, there is an entire multiverse and people who are able to travel to other universes are called ‘worldwalkers.’ Thankfully, the author makes the wise decision not to overwhelm the reader with dozens of different worlds but instead focuses on one: a magical fantasy world of clashing nations and complex politics.
And what an incredible world it is. The worldbuilding in this novel left me absolutely gobsmacked. There are several different religions, nations, and ways of ruling those nations. For example, there is a nation called Veksh and it is a strictly matriarchal society. Women hold the most important positions of power and, while men are not exactly slaves, they are definitely considered to be second-class citizens. I love how Meadows actually took the time to explore just how a matriarchal society would work. Believe me, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and women holding hands and everyone gets along – it is just as fraught as a patriarchal society, with power struggles and backstabbing and even attempted murder. But it is so fascinating and so wonderful to see women as real people instead of being relegated to the role of ‘hero’s love interest.’
I can’t tell you how amazing it is to read a book where the female characters outnumber the male ones. You would think it would be jarring to read because we are so used to seeing movies where there is only one token female character dropped in among an all-male cast. But it felt like the most natural thing to read about these women who fight and love and scheme and argue and have their own plans. Each and every single one of them is flawed and they all have agency. So instead of the Bechdel test, I propose that we have the Meadows test: does your story (be it a book or a film) have multiple, named, female characters that each have their own story arc and are responsible for driving the plot forward? I think if we used that test, we’d get a lot more stories that actually represent women as real people.
Fantasy is often labeled as escapist fiction with no relation to the real world. This could not be further from the truth and if you want an example of that, just read An Accident of Stars. If you read between the lines, there is so much social commentary on a wide variety of subjects: feminism, sexism, racism, trans issues, rape, religion, marriage, polyamory – the list goes on. But Foz Meadows doesn’t preach – she shows our world through a different lens by viewing it from another fantasy world.
My one minor complaint about this book is that one of the romantic relationships felt slightly underdeveloped and rushed. I would have liked to see it drawn out a little more.
But there’s also a part with dragons. So in the end it evens out.
The ending was an emotional roller-coaster that left me devastated while also hinting at what’s to come in the next book. I cannot wait to find out what happens.
If you are looking for a feminist fantasy book that features diverse, interesting characters, I highly recommend An Accident of Stars.