A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
West African folklore. Mental health. Romance. Danger.
An impressive debut novel that gave me a lot of Children of Blood and Bone feels. I loved the Black male co-protagonist viewpoint and how the author makes this character feel real and vulnerable, which is not something many Black males feel they are allowed to be in the real world. Malik, is a teen who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety issues. He also was born with some dark magic that he wasn’t able to use most of his life, and now has an opportunity to find out what his magic can do as he embarks on a mission to save his little sister. Malik crashes into Princess Karina, as she is rebelliously out and about, and little do they both know how deeply intertwined they will become by the end of this first installment.
Malik supposedly comes from a less than desirable background, and he and his family (his two sisters) who is with him, are trying to find a better life in the city of Ziran. His sister, Nadia, is kidnapped by Idir, a dark magical spirit, who is holding her ransom in exchange for the life of Princess Karina, and the story takes many wild turns as you go through the adventures during the 50 year Solstasia festival that is occurring when the book starts.
Princess Karina is a typical spoiled annoying brat, who does not heed any advice or warnings as she skates through life as a royal family member. When her mother gets killed during the beginning of the Solstasia festival, we see Karina have to decide if she’s going to grow up and take charge or allow others to make the decisions for her.
In a turn of events, Malik and Karina eventually meet and the journey they take has quite a few twists and unexpected bumps as they try and figure out what’s going on, and how to deal with all of the fallout that is happening around them during this 50 year festival.
There is a lot to be discussed in this book even though this is considered a YA novel. The author does not shy away from some important concepts and ideas, and I was really appreciative that she considered many topics in this book.
Topics that were brought up during this first installment:
– Mental health and Black male vulnerability
– Class/caste system
– Racial disparities
– Social issues
– Family drama
There is some world building going on in this novel, but it’s not as rich and detailed as I’ve seen in other fantasy books. However, you also don’t get dragged into an info dump section and left to dig yourself out. For me, the book kind of starts off slow and casually picks up as you read along, but I would have liked a bit more backstory and character development to get a better feel for the story that the author was trying to create.
I did appreciate the social issues and politics that were brought into the story. These two concepts made this book reminiscent of Children of Blood and Bone, but it is not a direct copy of COBAB, but it was a bit cliché-ish in some parts. There is some insta-love going on that doesn’t seem very organic and natural, but as a reader I kind of just pushed past that and didn’t give it a lot of thought. The connection between Karina and Malik does seem a bit flimsy, but this is only the first book, so maybe more can be expected in the 2nd installment.
The author is thoughtful in her inclusion, and writes about a couple of different disabilities that don’t get discussed too often, especially in YA novels; debilitating migraines and incapacitating anxiety/panic attacks. Karina has a chronic migraine condition, but that could be tied to other reasons that hasn’t been really broached. Malik battles (literally) his anxiety and panic, and uses his mental health issues as a way to fight off evil dark magic. There are some LGBTQIA+ mentions, but it is not dwelled on or really talked about in great detail. More so joked about, but not seriously discussed, and it made me feel like it was diversity for the sake of diversity.
The magic system was a bit clumsy and confusing. I still don’t really have an understanding of the type of magic that can be done, and who has the ability to have magic, but we do see magic happening and the type of magic that can be created is pretty cool. The people in this world all have some type of Alignment, and I wish that the author would have explained this in more detail or provided a key/breakdown on the different Alignments/countries/Tribes/Clans/Villages, etc.
There are some ‘too long’ sections in the book that could have been shortened and the editing could have been much tighter and cleaner in many places throughout the book, but overall, this was a 3.75/4.
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A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown