Stardust in Their Veins by Laura Sebastian -ARC Review!

Princesses Beatriz and Daphne have lost their older sister, but their mother’s grand scheme of taking the continent of Vesteria is far from complete. With the country of Temarin now under the Empress’s control, only the nations of Cellaria and Friv remain free from her rule. What’s worse, an ominous prophecy has begun to shine through the constellations: the blood of stars and majesty spilled.

Usurped by conniving cousins Nico and Gigi, Beatriz fears for her life, while in icy Friv, Daphne continues her shaky alliance with the rebels even as she struggles to stay a step ahead of them. But when an unlikely ally offers Beatriz a deal, she finds herself back in her mother’s sights.

With enemies around every corner and the stars whispering of betrayal, Daphne and Beatriz can’t trust anyone–least of all each other. If they’ve learned anything, though, it’s that the Empress’s game is constantly changing. And the arrival of surprise visitors from Temarin just might tip the scales in the princesses’ favor . . . if they manage to avoid meeting their sister’s fate before they can make their next move.

Holy cow this book was good! Filed with twists and turns and as political and scheming as the first. Please note that this review will contain spoilers for the first book.

Sophronia is dead, Beatriz is in exile and Daphne has survived multiple assassination attempts, but there is still work to be done if their mothers plan to control he continent is still to go ahead. Beatriz knows that their mother is behind Sophie’s death, in fact their mothers plan only works if all her daughters are sacrificed on foreign soil, but Daphne isn’t so easily convinced. Both Daphne and Beatriz are determined not to share their sisters fate, but it will take them working together if they are to bring about the downfall of their mother, a woman who is always two steps ahead, and with enemies around every corner, they will quickly need to realise that the only person they can trust is each other.

We get the same POV’s in this book, with the addition of Viole, Sophie’s maid. She adds a whole new dimension to the story, someone who knows The Empresses’ plans, but is an outsider. She is someone who knows how to look after herself, and her training means that she is not to be messed with. Beatriz and Daphne, whilst still as ruthless and scheming in this story, got a whole new depth to their character shown through them dealing with the loss of Sophie. They start with denial, never actually witnessing the act, they can fool themselves into believing she is still alive, but when they get confirmation, they deal with it in two wholly different ways. Beatriz feels the loss, she mourns Sophie, who she believes was the best of them and, knowing her mother was behind Sophie’s death, she starts on a path of revenge that puts her directly in the path of her mother. Daphne, like their mother, see’s Sophie as weak, she believes she brought the death on herself and knows that if she does what her mother asks of her, she will be safe. Her inability to see what’s right in front of her annoyed me at some points, but when she see’s the light, we start to see the true Daphne, who has hidden behind the mask of her mother for years.

Book one spends a lot of time introducing us to all the players which is needed because there are a lot! But that means, that we get a lot more character development in this book, as well as introducing a few new faces who had smaller roles in the first book. I loved getting to spend more time with Beatriz and Daphne, even if Daphne frustrated me in parts, but seeing them come into their own, learning that they are their own people outside of their mothers plans was great to see and I enjoyed following them on their journey. Though our characters may fall into the YA age range, this definitely reads towards the older side, due in large to the writing style which is prone to description and more introspection than action, something I find rare in YA, but I love. Sebastian spends a lot of time in this book setting things up for the finale, making sure you know which players to look out for and who you should/shouldn’t trust. She also gives us a deeper dive into the magic in this world and I adored getting to learn about the different kinds of Empyrea, the people who are able to use stars to grant wishes among other things.

If you’re a fan of political fantasy, with plenty of scheming and shenanigans then I can’t recommend this series enough. Her choice to send our characters to different countries within her world was well done as it allows to extensive world building that we are shown, not just told about. In the first book we spend time in Cellaria, Temarin & Friv giving us a deep insight into their beliefs, religions and laws, whereas thanks to the events of the first book, in Stardust in Their Veins. we spend most of our time flitting between Bessemia, the Princesses’ home country and Friv with Daphne still installed their. Friv is still sitting on the edge of a knife, the rebellion still at large and Daphne knowing that once her so called friends learn of her reasons for being there, they will never trust her again. And in Bessemia, Beatriz finds herself back in her home, without the two other parts of her heart, and having to look out not only for herself, but for Pasquale, not the Prince she wanted, but one she wouldn’t change.

One thing I love about these series is the relationships. How each Princess was raised to behave in a certain way, to worm their way into the country they are sent to with the greatest effect, and how every single one ended up turned on their head. Sophie, the romantic and never ending failure to their mother ended up loving her Prince that much that she went against her mother for the first time and ended up dead. Beatriz, raised for seduction ended up with a Prince who could never love her the way she needed, and found herself loving him anyway. And Daphne, the most ruthless of all, ended up marrying the brother of her betrothed and, to the surprise of everyone, falling for him. None of these relationships are traditional, nor were they meant to happen, but they all add to the emotion and drama of the story.

This was the perfect follow on from book one! Filled with suspense, magic, romance and political scheming. It ensured I fell even more in love with these characters, even the newer additions, and Sebastian leaves us with another absolute killer cliffhanger ending that has me incredibly eager to get my hands on the third book.

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