Roseanne A. Brown breathes life into a story of magic and tragic loss in her debut novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin.
From the Blurb:
The first in an 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?
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin started out strong and maintained that momentum throughout. The plot is intricate, with new aspects being added constantly and a fast pace to match. Roseanne A. Brown’s writing kept me engaged the entire time and the final reveal blew me away. I can’t wait to see where this villain goes.
The only issue I had was that it became hard to keep up with all the subplots, mythology and history as the climax approached. The sequence of events leading up to it suddenly added a lot of new elements that were hard to fit into the story so close to the end.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown is set in a world where magic has been forgotten, however the world itself is steeped in mythology and tradition. The world-building is fantastic. Brown opens up the book with a griot beckoning the people to hear a story. Then, she introduces further West African elements before blending those with North African history and mythology. The Kennouan empire is clearly inspired by the Egyptian pharaohs while being far darker than how it’s usually seen within YA fantasy. The magical aspect of it all was confusing but it’s also new to the characters, so I’m confident it’ll be explained in the sequel.
Roseanne A. Brown also excels in her characters. Each one, even amongst the secondary characters, is well rounded with strengths and flaws that are slowly revealed throughout, even up to the end. This adds a richness to the story and made me all the more invested in the book.
Malik’s character was a breath of fresh air. He is smart and resourceful but he is also very anxious and vulnerable. Particularly, his panic attacks do get in the way of the story and need to be addressed, rather than being something he can brush off for the sake of plot.
Despite the façade Karina projects in Malik’s POV chapters, she too is a vulnerable and scared young woman who is just trying to figure out how to move forward. Her character arc is remarkable as she comes to realise that her reality cannot change, with the culmination being cathartic for both her and the audience.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown is a strong debut that offers a whole new world to explore in a genre typically dominated by European mythologies. The story and characters pulled me in and I look forward to the sequel, hoping it’ll be a little smoother.