All the Stars and Teeth is an instant front runner for the best fantasy of 2020

Photo: All The Stars And Teeth by Adalyn Grace.. Image Courtesy Macmillan Publishing Group
Photo: All The Stars And Teeth by Adalyn Grace.. Image Courtesy Macmillan Publishing Group /

It may only be February, but Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth is a serious contender for the best fantasy of the year.

Adalyn Grace’s novel All the Stars and Teeth is that rare buzzy debut that actually lives up to its pre-release hype – and then some. It’s honestly the kind of novel that should have a spot on everyone’s best fantasy of the year lists when the time comes.

To be fair, there are an awful lot of new stories headed your way in 2020. And a lot of them are good. Really good. But All the Stars and Teeth is something truly special, a novel that not only manages to tell a great story, but one that seeks to subvert so many of the established tropes and expectations that are endemic to this particular genre.

It follows the story of Amora, the princess of an island kingdom known as Visidia. She’s spent her life training to not only inherit her father’s throne, but to become Visidia’s High Animancer, a position that requires her to master a particularly rare and dangerous type of soul magic that only those in her bloodline are able to wield.

Each person in Visidia is meant to choose and control only one type of magic – whether they’re healers, can alter their physical appearances, cast curses, control the weather, and much more. Amora’s family, the Montaras, is not allowed to choose, however, as their destiny to choose soul magic has been predetermined for generations.

But when her public demonstration of her abilities goes horribly wrong, Amora is forced to flee with a handsome pirate who promises to help her prove her fitness to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his own lost magic. Of course, that’s not the entire story, and Amora will come to learn the same man that stole Bastian’s magic us leading a rebellion that could bring down her kingdom.

So, you know, just regular princess problems.

All the Stars and Teeth combines high-stakes adventure (there are sea monsters and a literal pirate ship), a complex heroine, a charming found family, and a complicated political plot that will determine the fate of a diverse kingdom. There’s even some romance, because at the end of the day it’s still a YA novel, but it’s hardly the most important part of the story, and the slow burn enemies-to-lovers relationship is extremely well handled.

There’s even a mermaid. (And, spoiler alert, she’s amazing.)

Though she is a princess, Amora has spent most of her life sheltered by her father – she’s never been to the other islands she will one day rule, and the king forbids her to learn to sail the way she’s always wanted to. She dreams of adventure even as she accepts that her future lies on Visidia’s throne, and her embrace of that duty is carried joyfully, rather than treated as a burden.

We see repeatedly that Amora has a deep-seated desire to do good, and to improve the lives of those that have trusted her to lead them. More than anything, she wants to both be and be seen as worthy of that trust, and her willingness to prove herself is deeply appealing.

Yet, she’s also ignorant of many of the conditions her people live in, and part of her journey toward becoming worthy of the throne involves truthfully the things that her father’s decisions have brought about. As she learns more and more about her family’s history, and how the Montara royal family came to possess the soul magic that allows them to lead others, Amora wrestles with how she can best make amends for the sins of those that came before her. And the growth in her character from the novel’s first page to its last is fairly remarkable.

All the Stars and Teeth also boasts an entertaining shelf of secondary characters from the swashbuckling pirate Bastian, to Amora’s slightly fussy but very loyal fiancé Ferrick, and the fierce mermaid Vataea. Though the group comes together for a variety of different reasons and with divergent aims, they ultimately meld into a team that’s almost impossible to dislike, with distinct relationships between and among one another. The possibilities for how these relationships will all evolve in the next novel are intriguing, particularly given one last minute twist that very well may change things between Amora and Bastian forever.

All the Stars and Teeth is an incredible adventure through a rich world populated by a series of complex characters who exist to do much more than fulfill predetermined roles in a narrative. There’s violence, blood, death and betrayal – but there’s also determination, hope and a heroine who’s likely to fill the holes such popular characters as Mare Barrow and Aelin Galathynius left in your heart. It’s a book that more than belongs on your TBR this winter – and one you’ll probably still be telling friends about when summer rolls around.

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All the Stars and Teeth is available at your favorite retailer. Let us know if you’re planning to check it out – and what you think if you already have!