- Author: Rosanne Brown
- Year Published: 2020
- Page Count: 480
- Genre: Fantasy
- Pacing: Drawling | Slow | Suspenseful Build | Fluctuating | Steady | Fast | Vague
- Type: Fantasy | Mix | Realism
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The story follows a princess and a refugee breaking the boundaries of morality for their loved ones while resisting their attractions to one another. Princess Karina wants to revive her passed mother but the only way she can do this is to kill a king. The refugee Malik has to kill the princess to save his little sister and the sole route to his goal is to take part in an impromptu suitor ceremony organized by the princess herself.
I loved this plot mainly because it made use of both main characters. You couldn’t possibly say that Malik or Karina were ‘side’ characters because their specific journey was so imperative to the plot that you couldn’t sacrifice either one of them. Otherwise the story would lose all its power and interest. Not many writers are able to do this properly without one character losing their edge towards the end but these two characters stuck to their importance until the end.
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In the last book review, I was harsh on how trope-y the characters were written and I explained that I love trope-y characters so long as they have their layers to them.
Karina and Malik are what I mean by tropes with layers.
Karina is the trope of a misunderstood princess who is a little rebellious and many think that she’s not even fit to be royal. As a child, she lost her father and older sister to a tragic fire leaving her as the only heir to the throne after her mother. Everything is a trope fiasco until her mother takes her to the cave where she learns about her family’s history and the importance of the festival that helps protect their kingdom from enemies. From then on to the attack that led to her mothers’ death, Karina steadily develops out of the misunderstood princess and fights to take her respect as a leader.
In the spirit of a dual character-driven plot, Malik is a refugee who suffers from anxiety and has the ability to communicate with the spirit world. This ability unfortunately leads in his little sisters’ kidnapping. The wraith who kidnaps her offers him a deal to kill the princess in exchange of his familys’ safety. Malik needs to get close to the princess and the one way he was able to do it was take part in the festival competitions. A competition that spontaneously turned into a suitor ceremony after Karina figures out the condition to bring her mother back to life. Like Karina, Malik goes from a frightened young boy unable to face his fears to a magic user who embraces all facets of himself to become the brave brother he needs to be.
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The book mainly follows the two characters and their steady bonding. Their attractions are adolescent but at least in this story, they are actually adolescents. So sudden fits of wanting to kiss each other and not knowing what to do with themselves was cute to read.
I absolutely loved the emphasis on family this story had more than anything else. Karina desperately tried to bring her mother back to life. You could understand why she wanted to turn to such high lengths since she had already lost family before and her relationship with her mother become more rocky than they both liked. Even as a reader who knows that necromancy is never successful, I was entranced by her innocent desire to create miracles and even started hoping that Karina got what she wanted.
The same thing goes for Malik. He was a refugee in a strange land (that hates his kind no less) and the only thing he recognized were his two sisters. You can feel the helplessness in Malik to help his little sister knowing that he and his older sister were the only two people who can take her back to safety.
These connections were all so nicely orchestrated that there was no question of why the characters were so desperate to preserve them.
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This story is set in the desert city of Ziran which is bustling in merchant stalls and an enchanting royal palace. The worldbuilding definitely took all the points in this story since it’s inspired by West-African folklore so all the terminology and culture was a big breath of fresh air. If you’ve been reading fantasy books for a long time then you know that it’s always good to have books with a range of lore, psychological/philosophical depth, history and mythology stacked behind it.
I personally like the Alignments used for the characters to distinguish themselves. Each Alignment had their own symbol: Sun, Moon, Wind, Earth, Water, Fire and Life. All of them have their specific Gods/Goddesses that the specific Alignments pray to. I’m not an expert on African folklore but the Alignment (at least in this story) acted like a zodiac structure in some way except in a world where each zodiac would come together in their temples and pray. We don’t want a temple full of Geminis or Scorpios so it’s probably good we don’t have that. Anyway, this was just a personal love of mine. I love culture building in fantasies and it was really nice to read.
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The ending was open-ended which usually (in fantasy fiction anyway) intends that the author was planning on a series to develop this further so I’m excited to see where this series goes.
The conclusion and climax was amazing. Instead of your usual fight to the death with the villain, the author truly made it specific and special to the main characters. Even if you don’t like open endings, there was something so sad and almost inspiring at how the characters dealt with the situation at hand. I can’t explain it all too much without spoiling but you won’t regret reading this story.
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Browns’ writing style was clear and simple with that sprinkle of magic at every corner. She made inanimate objects dance and breathe with life. Despite being a young adult story, the language use was similar to that of an adult fantasy. The characters themselves were also written in a mature inflection.
- Feminism: I liked that women being treated like equal members of society wasn’t new in this world. Too many times, fantasy writers tend to take advantage of the fact that fantasy world are inheritably traditional so it’s the opportunity to be as sexist as possible. Build your world how you want but fantasy isn’t necessarily history and there’s no need to make it similar to problematic traditions.
- Mental Health: A fantasy protagonist with an anxiety disorder really isn’t something you see every day. I feel like people should talk about this book more often because of his character trait choice and how it was developed and addressed throughout the book with sensitivity and emotional intelligence.
A Song of Wraith and Ruins goes down in my list of top favourite books yet. The plot was interesting, the characters were amazingly written and worth rooting for, the worldbuilding was beautiful and just the whole creative work felt like the author tried everything possible to create an amazing piece. Please read this as soon as you get the chance, it’ll be worth all your time!