An instant NYT Bestseller, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a magnificent debut from Roseanne A. Brown, brimming with West African folklore, political machinations, and Black girl magic. I’ve heard this book pitched as “what if Aladdin and Jasmine were trying to kill each other?” and you know what, it turns out that scenario is a WHOLE lot of fun.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin Review
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 his younger sister, Nadia, as payment to enter 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 heart-pounding 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?
“Rumor had it that Princess Karina Alahari was a volatile, irresponsible girl . . . Princess or not, Malik wanted nothing to do with someone like that.”
I’m a sucker for gentle boys and badass female leads. Fortunately for me, this book has both.
Malik is a kind, protective brother who will do anything for his sisters. Karina is a fierce princess who intends to bring her mother back to life no matter the cost. When these two characters cross paths, they are thrown into a nefarious plot where killing each other is the only way to get what they want.
If you enjoy characters that are at times sweeter than sweet, and sometimes deliciously diabolical, you will love every moment you spend with Karina and Malik. They will make you laugh but also stab you in the heart. Repeatedly.
Not knowing how to root for two opposing agendas or how both of your favorite characters can possibly get a happy ending is a singular, thrilling experience I want for each and every one of you. Please read this book and share my pain.
“Supernatural beings, known as the grim folk, were the stuff of stories whispered on dark nights, nothing more. Malik knew from experience that the charms never worked and oftentimes left one’s skin itchy and green.”
This is a story about refugees, rebel royals, and ungodly revenge. It contains all the inventiveness and transformative lore of Spirited Away set against a backdrop of West African myth and history. The twists and turns, vivid world-building, and rich setting will keep you flying through the pages.
I was spellbound by Brown’s unique blend of fully realized, relentless mythology, gods, spirits, and grim folk. Honestly, there’s a reason Brown’s debut has received three starred reviews (ALA Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly) and quickly earned a spot on the NYT Bestseller List.
One of the things I love most about this novel is how it makes room for important social issues. Malik is a refugee. Karina challenges every stereotype about princesses who are expected to marry and accept their fates. This book is more than compelling and imaginative—it’s important and representative in so many crucial ways.
I think Brown’s dedication page says it all when she states that this book is “for every Black child that’s wondered if they’re enough—you are.”
Also, did you know that A Song of Wraiths and Ruin contains a unique and awesome astrology with original horoscopes? For example, I’m sun-aligned. A natural leader. My patron deity is Gyata the Lion, She Born of the Sun.
What’s your alignment? (Pssst, you can find out here).
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Looking for more reviews?
Check out my review of The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala.