Review: Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu

Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu

Stars and Smoke (Stars and Smoke #1)
Marie Lu
Roaring Brook Press
Published March 28, 2023

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About Stars and Smoke

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.

Greymist Fair on Goodreads

My Review

Going into this book, I wasn’t sure how the story would balance the romance and the spy/suspense elements. Some of the blurbs and even the cover copy to a degree focused on the romance, so I wasn’t sure if it was predominantly a romance with a bit of spy stuff around the edges?

It’s really both, and I feel like both parts work well together. I’d call the romance more of a subplot, because while there are some scenes centered around Winter and Sydney getting to know and falling for each other, the bulk of the story is focused on their mission.

The hyper-advanced technology definitely adds to the book’s James Bond-style vibe. Not only is the mission dangerous, but it’s clear Sydney and Winter are up against a villain with a whole lot of tricks up his sleeve.

I enjoyed the first fifty pages or so, but it wasn’t until Sydney and Winter actually left for their mission that I really dove into this book. There are so many interesting characters, and so many layers to them. I liked the ways the story surprised me. I loved the descriptions of Winter dancing, and the way he expressed emotions. Those scenes are the ones that will stick with me the longest.


I haven’t read anything by Marie Lu since LEGEND, so I’m way behind on her books. This one made me really want to catch up because there was great storytelling here, and really good pacing to this intense story. All in all, I’m incredibly glad I read STARS AND SMOKE. Readers who enjoy spy thrillers or stories about music superstars definitely want to get their hands on this one.

Greymist Fair on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Winter is Chinese American and has had romantic relationships with boys and girls. One minor character is gay and black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
References to a past relationship Winter was in, in which he slept with his partner. References to both Winter and Sydney having short romantic relationships in the past. Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Winter learns his brother died on assignment for Panacea, an independent spy agency working alongside the CIA. Situations of peril. A girl attacks various opponents. A man is executed using a chemical agent. A girl is poisoned. Someone tries to and later succeeds in shooting a boy.

Drug Content
Winter (age 19) drinks alcohol at a party in London (where the drinking age is 18.).

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of STARS AND SMOKE in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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