Review of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
by Roseanne A. Brown
High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    480 pp.    g
6/20    978-0-06-289149-5    $18.99

This tale, first in a West African–inspired duology, is narrated in the third person, from two points of view. The first protagonist, Malik, is an Eshran refugee fleeing his war-torn homeland to begin a better life in the flourishing city of Ziran. When his sister Nadia is taken by an evil spirit, Malik makes a deal to kill Ziran’s Princess Karina in exchange for Nadia. Karina, the second protagonist, believes that the way to save Ziran is to bring her mother, who was assassinated in a plot gone awry, back from the dead. Malik’s and Karina’s paths cross during Solstasia, a Zirani celebration. As the two fall in love — even as each must plot to kill the other — they question everything they know about themselves and their world. Brown includes disability representation (Malik has panic attacks and Karina has chronic migraines) as well as commentary about colonialism and prejudice. Tension builds slowly in much of the first half; impressive world-building, beautiful writing, and surprising plot twists make the faster-paced second half worth the wait. Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone, rev. 5/18), Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes), and Tochi Onyebuchi (Beasts Made of Night).

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

S. R. Toliver
S. R. Toliver is a PhD candidate in language and literacy education at the University of Georgia and a 2019 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellow. She studies YA speculative fiction, Afrofuturism, and Black girl literacies. Her academic work can be found on her website Follow her on Twitter @SR_Toliver

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