Fresh Fridays: Stars and Smoke (#1) by Marie Lu

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:


Other books planned to be in the series:


Synopsis for Stars and Smoke (from Goodreads):

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 . . .


Author: Marie Lu
Series: Stars and Smoke
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary, Espionage, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 2023 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook


Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Marie Lu’s Legend series is one of my all time favourites. But her other series I’ve read after that haven’t blown me away. But I was excited to try this series out. I loved the idea of a popstar turned spy and a heated romance.

What I Liked:

–An Intriguing Concept–

I mean it’s sheer genius isn’t it to use a global popstar for espionage!? Makes you wonder if they’ve done it before.

But I really loved the “fish out of water” scenario that Winter finds himself in. I enjoyed watching him navigate his moonlighting job while balancing the expectations as a popstar.

–Layered Characters–

As a society, I think we love our flawed heroes. The newest James Bond movies highlight that perfectly when you compare them to the earliest ones which seemed to be more focused on the thrill of being 007 vs the burden of it. We want deeper characters that are torn between right and wrong; who use their own moral compass to guide them.

Sydney and Winter both have a lot of layers to them — layers that I think we’ve only just scratched the surface of.

What I Didn’t Like:


I liked the idea of the romance but the execution didn’t win me over. I wasn’t convinced that they were these starcrossed lovers. They have a decent connection but sheer proximity seemed to be the main draw between them.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audiobook production. It was easy to listen to and follow along, especially when it was told in third person.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I think this book did a great job of setting up future novels. The characters have their foundations and the world has been set. I’m hoping the next book will take those features and really take them to the next level.

My Rating: 3/5

Stars and Smoke 3/5 | Icon and Inferno TBP


A refreshing espionage novel with a great concept and the inklings of a great romance on the horizon.

Read if You Like: spy novels, action, flawed characters
Avoid if You: want more romance


  • Spy Girl by Jillian Dodd (Spy Girl Series #1)

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