Title: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (ASOWAR #1)
Author: Roseanne A. Brown
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Content/Trigger Warnings: Animal death, Anxiety and panic attacks, Emotional abuse, Mild self-harm ideation, Parent death, Physical abuse, Violence
One Sentence Synopsis
Karina, a princess looking to bring her mother back to life, and Malik, a boy trying to save his sister from dark forces, are on a crash course that might end in disaster.
“Karina had molded her grief into a sword, poised to harm anyone who dared get close. But her mother had built hers into a wall, and no sword, no matter how sharp, could take down defenses so strong.”
Y’all, this summer has been one of some excellent fantasy featuring Black protagonists and I am HERE FOR IT! A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is no exception.
We are following the story of two young people who are finding their way in a pretty unforgiving world. Karina is a princess who is very familiar with pain. Her father and older sister both died when she was young and, ever since, she has been afflicted with debilitating migraines. She feels trapped in Ziran, the capital city from which her family rules. She wants to travel and explore but, as the only heir to the throne, her days are filled with learning how to be the next sultana. But then her mother dies and Karina’s focus changes: she needs the heart of a king to bring her mother back from the dead. Malik is a refugee that is just trying to find a better life in the capital along with his sisters. Then dark forces steal his youngest sister and demand he kill the princess in exchange for her safe return. Their two goals collide during the celebration of Solstasia, where Malik enters the competition to get close to Karina. A competition where the winner will become the next king and, quite literally, lose their heart to the princess.
I loved so much about this story, but I’d have to say my favorite aspect was the characters! Karina and Malik are such incredibly developed protagonists. They have such a depth of character that makes them incredibly easy to connect with and made me love this story even more. I wanted to give them both hugs because, hoo-boy, do they go Through It. Karina is dealing with (well… not really) grief and chronic pain, which is shown in such a real, raw way that hit me hard. Malik has anxiety and is plagued by panic attacks, which is only exacerbated once his sister is kidnapped by a spirit! It’s so hard to watch them both struggle with their demons, but I think the author does such an amazing job of depicting it and showing their growth. I can’t wait to watch them grow even more in the next book!
Now that I’ve discussed the characters, I want to talk about my next favorite aspect of the story: the world-building! Roseanne A. Brown does a phenomenal job of crafting the world of Sonande and the city of Ziran. The descriptions are rich and wonderfully evocative! It puts you deep into the story and makes it feel like you’re exploring the world alongside our main characters. I also loved the magic system in this book. It has such a deep root in history and it’s built up in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re sitting through a school lecture. It’s dangerous and fun and incredibly interesting! And, seeming as this is just the first book in a series, there is a lot more of it to explore.
I think the author does an incredible job with pacing, as well. The plot never felt like it was lagging or like things were moving too quickly. All the drama and the action built in a fashion that kept you on the edge of your seat! It makes this a quick, enjoyable read that will have you in its grip from beginning to end. The romance is deliciously slow burn and will make your heart twist. Especially at the end. Uuuuugh, it hurts so good! I can’t wait to see where their relationship goes.
Final thoughts: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a richly told story that completely envelopes you from start to finish. Everything is wonderfully crafted, from the characters to the world in which they live. You will find yourself rooting for both Karina and Malik, even as they are trying to murder one another. If you like a fantasy that is evocative, with incredible world-building, an interesting magic system, and lots of drama, this might be the book for you!