- A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
Brown, Roseanne A. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. Balzer + Bray, 2020 [480p] Trade ed. ISBN 9780062891495 $18.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9780062891518 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12
When seventeen-year-old Malik's younger sister is held captive by an obosom spirit, he has no choice but to comply with the spirit's command to kill the princess of Ziran. Using his rare magical powers, Malik manipulates his way into a competition that will keep him close to court. Meanwhile, Princess Karina is surrounded by a treacherous court after her mother the sultana is assassinated, and she must gather materials for an ancient ritual to resurrect her. However, the ritual will require the heart of the winner of the contest: her future spouse. As Malik and Karina meet and their relationship grows, each grapples with the knowledge that they will have to kill the other—but neither of them comprehends the agendas of the ancient [End Page 466] forces at play. This epic story is brimming with trickster spirits, rich culture, and an organically developing romance that make every twist and turn more interesting than the last. Malik is of the second-class Eshran race overcome by Zirani rule, and his struggles to work with the race that has oppressed his people is as heartbreaking as it is achingly familiar; Karina's new shame about her people's treatment of those they consider lesser is equally eye-opening. Interference by gods and mythical creatures is abundant here, and many references are made to the intricate system of elemental deities inspired by West African folktales. Brown's novel will easily fit on shelves next to other great West African–inspired fantasies like Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone (BCCB 4/18) and Ifueko's Raybearer (BCCB 4/20), and the ending makes it apparent that Malik and Karina's story has (thankfully) only just begun.