Book Review

A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin

This debut fantasy was really hyped, and the cover is absolutely GORGEOUS!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

  • Author: Roseanne A. Brown
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: June 2, 2020
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • Series: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #1

TRIGGER WARNING: on-page death of a parent, animal death, self-harm

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The first in a fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death? 

This was a really tough book for me to review. There’s some aspects that I loved, and some that I just wasn’t feeling. So here’s my own personal thoughts on this book.

West African-inspired fantasy is definitely having a moment, and I’m all about it. It’s a culture I don’t know much about, but that provides a refreshing break from the standard European-inspired fantasy world. Even while seeing how things are different, there are so many similar aspects, which serve to reinforce that even while humans may do things differently, we are much more alike than different.

In addition, there’s fabulous mental health rep in the story — Malik struggles with panic attacks and it’s dealt with beautifully, especially the way his coping skills are discussed. He’s a cinnamon roll and he’s easy to like. Also unlike so, so many fantasy series that I’ve read, there’s a strongly female dominated society, including the rulers and protectors of Ziran. The writing itself was beautiful and made it easy to visualize what was going on.

“Bahia’s Comet blazed in the western corner of the sky with the intensity of a small sun, so bright that Malik could not gaze directly at it without squinting. The comet seemed bone white at first glance, but further appraisal revealed trails of blue, purple, and green wiping off the comet’s tail and disappearing into the star-studded night.”

The magic system wasn’t explained super well, and there didn’t really seem to be limits on the amount of magic a person can expend. There has to be a level of willing suspension of disbelief, and when there is no cost to using magic, it interferes with that for me.

Karina was interesting at first, but as the story went on, I liked her less and less. I was curious to see what happened, but the pacing seemed to drag a little. It felt like I was reading forever, only to finally reach the end and be confronted with too many loose threads that didn’t get wrapped up. I know there’s another book to follow this one, but I just didn’t feel like the story hooked me enough to want to read the next one. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad or not enjoyable, I think that maybe it just didn’t live up to the hype that I had built up in my head.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 9

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