Review: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Published by Balzer + Bray (June 2, 2020)
Series: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Cover: Jessie Gang, Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Alison Donalty (design), Tawny Chatmon (artist), Tania Toussaint (model)

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Welcome to my stop on FFBC’s blog tour for Roseanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin! I’m very excited to get to talk about this book, as it quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year. Roseanne is such a passionate storyteller and this journey she fashioned is a story not-to-miss.

Make sure to visit all the other bloggers taking part in the tour by clicking on the schedule here and enter the tour giveaway for a chance to win the fantastic pre-order prizes. Though the giveaway ends on June 16, the pre-order campaign will be running until the 30th, so you can still buy this amazing book and get those gifts!

You can click the banner for the normal pre-order campaign, and continue reading for the book’s synopsis:


Synopsis

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to mYurder each other despite their growing attraction.

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 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?

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Review

You can tell when an author writes a story with every inch of themselves. It’s the visceral feeling in your stomach, the magic that calls to your very self, the tears brought to your eyes by words as well-placed as piercing daggers. When you read a story like that it’s as if every part of your life has managed to condense itself into one single moment, one infinite moment where you both find yourself and are lost forever. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is one such story. 

Opening this book was like being allowed through the massive gates of a monumental citadel. The first thing that hits you hard when you brave up its pages is not the palace, a towering symbol of power rising above its people, but the streets around you, filled with bustling noise, color, and effervescent vitality calling attention to every corner at once. It’s not the one ruler sitting on the throne symbolizing a nation, but the markets, griots, taverns, housing quarters, and squares that burst with the voice of a myriad of peoples. 

In that, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a symphony, one that celebrates the evocative heritage of Ghana’s oral storytelling traditions, building up a love song to the country’s rich and distinct cultures. Most striking of all is how the worldbuilding challenges monoliths, borrowing from West African folklore, Islamic cultures, and pre-Islamic Arabia, taking all these influences that make up the vast cultural diversity of Africa and coalescing them into a vivid fantasy world with a unique spirit entirely its own. And that’s just within the sphere of Ziran, without revealing the full portion of this world.

Even the orientation of the world defies the Western-centric ideal that Northern kingdoms are cold and Southern kingdoms are warm. This was something Roseanne discussed during her launch day live show and it’s amazing how a single, cunning detail can be charged with such intent and importance, provoking discussion on the way we center the world. One of my favorite things about fantasy is how power is held in its details, in its myths, in its cultures, and there are so many details in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin that demand to be heard and addressed. 

I absolutely loved how Roseanne managed to weave influences even from well-known fantasy favorites such as HP or classics such as Aladdin, never losing voice or sight to them but recalling them to share with the reader a heartwarming nostalgia. It felt almost like a hug. The story even managed to remind me of Naruto, and for those of you who don’t know me, that’s the highest form of compliment I could possibly give, as I’d fight anyone on the statement that Naruto is one of the best-accomplished pieces of storytelling I’ve ever laid eyes upon (this is most likely based upon my childhood nostalgia and the impact it had on my personal growth but I’m still ready to throw hands).

Much like it, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin deals in pain, ravaging grief, and the hope that can be fought for amongst all the despair, if only we are ready to believe in ourselves. It teaches us that heroes are hardly ever the mythical sort, but rather that it is the acceptance of the ordinary flaws we carry with us that allows us to fashion weapons out of fragility. 

We often imagine our heroes strong and fierce; men with bulging muscles and women as lithe as a lock of hair. And although imagination is often satisfying, it’s the realization that one type of person can never hold hostage the heroic image that stands out the most in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin.

If Karina and Malik are truly heroes or merely protagonists, that’s up for anyone to decide by themselves. What was certain for me as I read this book was that they are intimately complex characters that go beyond the conservative normalization of what a strong, fierce person is supposed to look and act like, and particularly, what the overwhelming publishing investment in white authors writing through their personal lens has perpetuated a strong, fierce Black character should be. This is the importance of ownvoices.

We should for no reason berate our masculine boys or our lithe girls, but rather we should allow for broader definitions of concepts that should be decided by individuality and not generalization. Reading characters like Malik, who is an anxious boy baring a kind and soft heart, and Karina, a girl allowed her ruinous anger as much as her healing tenderness is both a revolution and a balm. Karina is mean as she is tender, Malik as bold as he is

And if you’re not down with Adetunde Diakité I honestly don’t fk with you. 

The longing and insecurity left behind in the wake of grief bleed through the page, in a story that elevates the power of words and draws impactful allegories on forced immigration, refugee crises, self-care, cultural appropriation, racism, cultural and ethnic diversity, and even state brutality that highlights how the power dynamics between the Kennouan Empire, Ziran, and Eshra trace an unending line of injustice. 

A kaleidoscope of myths, folktales, and legends dance through the story. It felt so alive to read them. I’m fascinated by worldbuilding that draws parallels from ancient civilizations and I don’t think I’ve seen it done quite like this.

Every single detail in this book called to me: the rich worldbuilding, the raw emotion of the characters, the clever riddles I delighted in trying to figure out, the magic of the self, the Solstasia festival and its trials peppered with the spice of court intrigue, me anxiously awaiting to discover who were the traitors hiding their true intentions… 

Even the way the relationship between Leila, Malik, and Nadia spoke directly to the kids who were forced to grow up into caretakers far too young, saying: I see you. I recognize you. Family is such an integral theme in the story, manifesting in our characters’ every decision. Every critical moment owes itself to this outcry of familial unity and love.

Powerful in every way, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin quickly shaped up to be one of my favorite reads of the year. It basically kicked my ass and here I am asking for seconds.

An incandescent page-turner, highly-original and long overdue in publishing.

Ps. My review was fully honest and unbiased. Thank you FFBC, Balzer+Bray, and Rosie for the arc of the book.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is available at
IndieBound | Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | Book Depository


About Roseanne

Roseanne “Rosie” A. Brown was born in Kumasi, Ghana and immigrated to the wild jungles of central Maryland as a child. Writing was her first love, and she knew from a young age that she wanted to use the power of writing—creative and otherwise—to connect the different cultures she called home. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and was also a teaching assistant for the school’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House program. Her journalistic work has been featured by Voice of America among other outlets.

On the publishing side of things, she has worked as an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing. Rosie was a 2017 Pitch Wars mentee and 2018 Pitch Wars mentor. Never content to stay in any one place for too long, Rosie currently teaches in Japan, where in her free time she can usually be found exploring the local mountains, explaining memes to her students, or thinking about Star Wars.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

Published by Arina @ The Paperback Voyager

Passionate bookwyrm. Xenolinguist. Wine drinker.

2 thoughts on “Review: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

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