✨Age Range: Young adult
✨Series: 1st in a duology
✨Publication Date: 2nd June, 2020
✨Publisher: Balzer + Bray (US)
✨Format I Read: Kindle e-book
✨Content Warning: Violence, aggression against immigrants and death
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 Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into 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?
Characters and Representation in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
I had the privilege of listening to the author talk about this book on multiple online panels before I started reading. This gave me a sense of what to expect in terms of characterisation and representation but the book surpassed my expectations. By the end of the book, I was in love with Karina and Malik equally.
Karina was deliberately unlikeable in the beginning but she goes through immense character growth. Malik, on the other hand, was the underdog and it was easy to root for him. The mental health rep explored through both the characters was brilliantly done.
The side characters were well-fleshed out and the dynamics between them as well. Zarin was a melting pot of African-inspired cultures and it was shown through the different characters expertly. However, I felt that the romance aspect was lacking in depth even though it was fun to read.
Plot and World-Building in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
The plot took some time to get going but it took my breath away by the end. It built slowly and came to an amazing, action-packed conclusion that left me very satisfied. It also took a few unexpected turns even though I could guess at the overall direction it was going in.
Again, the world-building and magic system swept me off my feet. I really liked the elemental gods and not just magic but also the calendar built around that concept. Through the dual POV, both Karina and Malik’s cultures and backgrounds were presented beautifully.
Not only that, the book referenced an Egyptian-inspired culture and included African folklore through characters like Hyena. There was a heavy emphasis on storytelling and revealed the world more through that aspect. I also thought Solastasia and Bahia’s comet were very good additions to the plot and world-building.
Writing Style and Themes in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
I’m wary going into debut books because I don’t vibe with the writing style sometimes but it was the opposite with A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. Not only did I love the author’s style, I thought that she had a very clever way of world-building and bringing characters to life. She also handled the dual POVs with finesse.
Coming to the themes, there was so much happening here and the author did a fantastic job with them all. What struck a chord with me was the refugee crisis and systemic oppression of Malik’s people. Given the current political situation, being able to relate that to what’s going on was a powerful experience.
However, it also celebrated Black culture, traditions and mythology. It was a story of Black joy while also tackling real-world issues in a fantastical setting. It had the right balance of both and that’s what made the book a 5-star read for me.
Overall, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin was a well-crafted YA fantasy debut and I can’t wait for the sequel! I highly recommend picking up this book if you are looking for an #OwnVoices diverse YA fantasy with an exciting plot, enemies-to-lovers romance and lush world-building. I thought it was a flawless story but if you don’t enjoy YA fantasy, this book may not be for you.
Is A Song of Wraiths and Ruin on your TBR yet? Are you a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope? Do you have any SFF books by Black authors to recommend to me? Let me know in the comments section down below. Hope you are having a magical week, readers from Earth!