Title: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Series: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #1
Author: Roseanne A. Brown
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: June 2nd, 2o20 (Balzer + Bray)
Synopsis: 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?
The Solstasia festival occurs in Ziran once every fifty years and brings with it a grand competition between six champions. Malik is hoping to use this opportunity to escape his war-torn home and start a new life in Ziran with his sisters. But things go wrong and his younger sister Nadia is captured by an evil spirit. Desperate, Malik strikes a deal – for Nadia’s freedom, he will have to kill Princess Karina. But Karina is far from the spoiled girl most believe her to be. Unknown to the people, Karina’s mother, the Sultana, has just been assassinated and Karina must step into her place and take up responsibilities she is not remotely prepared for, surrounded by a council she cannot trust. Upon learning of an ancient magic ritual for resurrection, Karina decides that she will bring back her mother, but the ritual calls for the beating heart of a king. The competition provides a perfect source – Karina offers her own hand in marriage as the prize to the victor. Malik tricks his way into the contest in order to get closer to Karina, unknowingly setting them on a path to destroy each other.
The world and background in this book were inspired by Western African folklore which, admittedly, I know nothing about. It did take a while to figure things out, but I loved all the lore about this world and the stories told throughout, and it was presented in such a manner that it never felt overwhelming at any point. The world-building was beautifully described and it was so atmospheric and immersive. The magic system was fascinating, if slightly vague but hopefully that will be better in the sequel.
While on the surface this sounds like a story we’ve heard before with the hints of enemies-to-lovers, it actually didn’t follow much of the tropes at all, which I really appreciated. There were some familiar elements of course, but as a whole, this story was a breath of fresh air and it has been a while since I read something so different and new. The romance actually turned out to be a far smaller part of the book than I expected, which was good because there was so much other stuff going on that it would’ve taken away from. The pacing was a little slow for my taste, and it did seem to drag more in places than it should considering that the events are supposed to be taking place in a matter of days.
Karina and Malik were both really good narrators, and it’s impossible not to sympathize with and root for both of them, as they each are being driven to their tasks out of sheer desperation. Malik’s sister is being held hostage by an evil spirit and Karina is totally unprepared to rule, much less handle a council that is about to wrest the reigns of power from her. The way the story jumped between their POVs made sure the tension stayed high and always reminded the reader that the clock was ticking and just what was at stake. Despite the book being more plot focussed overall, it was easy to see how the duo’s arcs developed over the course of the story, particularly Karina, though the secondary characters did suffer in that aspect.
As for the ending – I didn’t expect that at all! I had my own theories as to who was the traitor in the palace, but I certainly didn’t see that coming! I have so many questions and I can’t wait to read the sequel and find out what happens next. This was definitely the strongest debut I’ve seen in a while. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin was a well written and exciting read, even if I did cringe at the title, and I would definitely recommend this book.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: