5/5 Stars; Young Adult Fantasy
A princess born into privilege. A boy cast out because of centuries of mistreatment of his people. Superficially, their experiences seem to contradict, but Karina and Malik have been similarly steeped in tragedy and despair. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown is only the first in a series I can't wait to continue reading.
Malik and his sisters left their Mama and Nana to go to Ziran in hopes of finding a better situation for their family. They're not only refugees but also Eshrans, a people seen as little more than servants in Ziran. Malik's had visions of grim folk from the time he was little, but it isn’t until he and his sisters force their way into Ziran that he realizes grim folk are real—and some not so nice. When the siblings duck into a decrepit house to hide, an evil spirit, Idir, corners them, abducting Malik’s youngest sister. The only way to get her back alive is for Malik to perform one task: kill princess Karina.
Karina's lost her father and sister in a palace fire, and the cause of the fire is more tragic than she yet realizes. An assassin breaks into the palace, murdering her queen mother, and Karina's determined to raise the queen from the dead and restore her to the throne. But to perform this dark ritual, she first has to carve out the heart of a king. Without any kings around, she decides to make a king—by marrying the winner of the annual Solstasia challenge.
And what better way for Malik to get close enough to kill Karina than by becoming her husband?
Let the challenge begin.
In a cat-and-mouse game of discovery and betrayal packed with mystery, humor, and action from the very first page, Karina and Malik circle closer to one another, waiting for the right moment to strike—and save their families. Switching deftly between their viewpoints, author Roseanne A. Brown tells their stories against the background of the rich, magical history of Sonande that gives even greater depth to an already vivid, immersive world. Her use of close third-person point of view allows us to experience these heartbreaking dilemmas through the eyes of these warm, hurting characters. We feel all their anger, disgust, despair, and love.
Most importantly, Brown uses these stories to address difficult topics relevant to her young adult audience and to society as a whole, such as racism, self-harm, and mental health. Brown’s funny, compassionate characters interact with these topics in complex ways that generate awareness and thoughtful consideration and challenge harmful assumptions. Brown’s commitment to not only entertain the young adults in her audience but also give them a story with real meaning is exactly the lofty height to which all young adult authors should aspire. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a magical, intricate, beautiful story of a whole new world not so unfamiliar, and it gives us a new, more tentative lens through which to view our own.
Brown has officially signed a deal for her second book in the series, A Psalm of Storms and Silence, set for release in summer, 2021 (yay!), and she has two more unrelated books in the works.
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