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ARC Review: Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu

Publication Date: March 28, 2023


This smoldering enemies-to-lovers novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu puts a superstar global phenomenon and a hotshot young spy on a collision course with danger – and Cupid’s arrow – in an electric new series perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon and Ally Carter.

Meet Winter Young – International pop sensation, with a voice like velvet and looks that could kill. His star power has smashed records, selling out stadiums from LA to London. His rabid fans would move heaven and earth for even a glimpse of him – just imagine what they’d do to become his latest fling.

Meet Sydney Cossette – Part of an elite covert ops group, Sydney joined their ranks as their youngest spy with plans to become the best agent they’ve ever had. An ice queen with moves as dangerous as her comebacks, Sydney picks up languages just as quickly as she breaks hearts. She’s fiery, no-nonsense, and has zero time for romance – especially with a shameless flirt more used to serving sass than taking orders.

When a major crime boss gifts his daughter a private concert with Winter for her birthday, Sydney and Winter’s lives suddenly collide. Tasked with infiltrating the crime organization’s inner circle, Sydney is assigned as Winter’s bodyguard with Winter tapped to join her on the mission of a lifetime as a new spy recruit. Sydney may be the only person alive impervious to Winter’s charms, but as their mission brings them closer, she’s forced to admit that there’s more to Winter Young than just a handsome face . . .

Romance and danger abound in this “brilliant, breathtaking ride that will leave you clamoring for the sequel.” —Tahereh Mafi, #1 internationally bestselling author of Shatter Me .

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Have you ever wanted to know what it would be like if your favorite BTS member (as if there is such a thing as a ‘favorite’ BTS member) were recruited to a secret spy organization? Now’s your chance to find out…

This was so much fun! It was fast-paced and full of excitement and danger and thrilling spy action. It was also full of popstar concert vibes. I found myself thinking ‘BTS’ over and over again and having to convince myself that, no, Winter Young is not modeled on BTS. And then lo and behold I find in the author’s note that Marie Lu is ARMY too and was thinking of BTS after all. Ha! I knew Winter’s extreme charisma and humbleness and ability to connect with people and pick up choreography and training immediately were familiar.

I loved Winter Young as a character. Yes, his resemblance to the various BTS members made me love him more, but he was charismatic and a sympathetic character in his own right and easy to root for.

Sydney was cold and hard and buried her vulnerabilities deep behind her walls, but Winter was able to bring them out and make her a more relatable and sympathetic character. They made a fabulous team and I can’t wait to see them team up again.

I did guess the big bad pretty early on, but it was fun seeing how it all played out. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me as I’m there for the overall experience of the story, but for people who want to be surprised by the twists it might be frustrating. Then again, Marie Lu did hide it pretty well.

I was glued to the pages the whole time I was reading and there was never a moment where I was bored or frustrated with the story. It all flowed really well and was so fast-paced I never got a chance to breathe and get drawn away from it. I’ll definitely be picking up the next one.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Bookishfirst, and Macmillan Children’s for providing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Winter reminded her too much of everything. Of her awful, short-lived second marriage. Of the second husband she loathed. But worst of all, of the fact that her beloved firstborn son was forever gone, and that only Winter, her afterthought, remained.

Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu

He could command the attention of ninety thousand people in an arena, could attract screaming throngs whenever he stepped out any door, could be on the covers of every magazine in the world. And yet he could never convince his mother to stay.

Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu

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