When I was perusing Goodreads and checking out 2020 releases, I came across Adalyn Grace’s All the Stars and Teeth and I was immediately intrigued by the stunning cover and the interesting synopsis. As I mention in my Sea Witch review, anything with mermaids qualifies as an instant read for me. With the gorgeous mermaid tail on the cover (along with a ship, skull and skeleton elements) there is mention of a ‘vengeful mermaid’ in the synopsis – so, clearly, my expectations of this book were set high. I can say that this debut novel from Adalyn Grace goes far beyond just mermaids and exceeded expectations!
Amora Montara has been raised to be the High Animancer, for her realm, Visidia, a group of islands. Each island’s inhabitants practice one type of magic of their choosing; however, Amora has never had a choice – she will have to practice soul magic.
Soul magic is the most deadly and dangerous form of magic and is only practiced by the royal family. Early on in the story, it is explained that long ago a beast attacked the realm and hoped to control those who practiced multiple types of magic. It was believed that practicing more than one type of magic made people greedy for power and the beast looked to corrupt those who looked for power. The beast offered to teach people the most powerful form of magic, but only in return for their souls. People who tried to master this ‘soul magic’, but already practiced multiple magics died in the process.
Amora’s ancestor, Cato Montara, who was a magicless man, bargained with the beast. If Cato could convince the population to give up practicing all but one of their magics, the beast would give its magic to Cato and leave. Cato was successful in convincing people to give up all but one of their magics and he vanquished the beast, but it could return one day if people begin practicing multiple magics again. Cato stepped into ruling the kingdom and practiced only soul magic; however, the beast stayed locked in his blood and was passed to his decedents.
We meet Amora on her birthday, about to participate in a coronation ritual to test her magic in front of her people and to solidify her ability to take up the position of High Animancer when her father is no longer fit. However, during the coronation she loses control of her magic and is forcibly removed and faces the possibility of being hanged.
While in the dungeon awaiting her fate, she is saved by Bastian, a pirate who she strikes a bargain with. They both agree that he will help her prove she is fit to rule if she will first help him reclaim his stolen magic. While on their high-seas adventure, Amora’s betrothed, Ferrick, joins them and they cross paths with a vengeful mermaid (yay!) named Vataea who joins the crew.
Together they must get Bastian’s magic back and save the kingdom from a destructive magic that is on the rise that threatens to kill all life in its path.
Amora is a very head strong girl who starts off a little rigid, but quickly flourishes into a well-rounded character. Her whole life has been training for her to take the High Animancer position, and the responsibilities that go along with the burden her lineage requires. When she is thrown together with Bastian, who you could almost say is her foil, it takes her a little bit to catch up to his charismatic, mostly care-free swagger. Her character growth is really fun to watch blossom as she is swept away by the different magics, people, and creatures of her kingdom.
I LOVED Bastian immediately. It is hard not to swoon for witty, snarky, boys who dress well and MAY be a pirate – and he fits the bill gloriously. The way he seems to know just how much support or push Amora needs to be successful and claim her magic for herself is also very appealing. How can you not love a supportive man?
It’s also hard not to love Vataea, the mermaid. We encounter her being held captive on land by a crime-lord who has taken over one of the islands. The crime-lord operates using years of a person’s life as currency (clearly, he is no joke) and is an all-around bad guy. Amora, Ferrick, and Bastian, help Vataea escape in exchange for her temporarily joining their crew and helping them to detect magic and curses along the way. Mermaids in this world are pretty incredible! Not only is Vataea gorgeous, but she has a siren song that drowns men, as well as a bunch of other magic that makes everyone’s lives better. For coming out of traumatic scenario, she has a pretty kick-butt attitude and really adds a lot to the crew.
Ferrick is probably the character you get to know least out of the crew. He is betrothed to Amora out of duty – but genuinely cares for her. Unfortunately for Ferrick, his love is not reciprocated. He has a really cool form of magic that allows him to not only heal others, but himself as well (like regrow a hand!). Overall, I felt a little sorry for his character early on, but I have a feeling he will get his day to shine.
I also really enjoyed the world and magic system that Adalyn has built for this story. I like the freedom that having it take place on different island gives her in terms of variety and terrain. She does a fantastic job of making the magic system interesting without over complicating it with rules or limitations. One of my favorite parts is the presences of curses, which plays a huge part in the adventure. It is a unique angle that adds a lot to the story.
Overall, I think this was a stunning debut novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Adalyn does a fantastic job keeping your attention, moving the story forward, as well as building an interesting and characters. I will be looking forward to read more in book two!