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 murder 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?
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a spellbinding debut and a New York Times Bestseller. Described as a fantasy inspired by West African folklore, ASoWaR is a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre with compelling characters with a dash of deadly romance.
A note: I know that when I read a review, usually when someone bills a book as having some sort of romantic aspect my brain usually shuts off. I’ve seen it done poorly and that’s no fun to read. However, Brown does a tremendous job of making Karina and Malik’s relationship feel earned and story-relevant without mindless pining that plagues many authors. Plus they both want to murder each other. So it’s good stuff!
I think the line that hooked me about ASoWaR was “What if Jasmine and Aladdin tried to kill each other?”
Karina is the princess of Ziran, daughter of the Sultana. When the Sultana is murdered on the eve of the Solstasia festival, Karina is thrust into a world that she is not ready for. With the council of Ziran taking charge and leaving Karina in their wake, she struggles to find the authority that her mother once commanded. To get her mother back, Karina must complete a ritual that calls for the heart of a king. Since Ziran has no king, Karina offers her own hand in marriage to the winner of the Solstasia festival. Karina’s journey is one of courtly intrigue and deceit as she navigates a court fraught with people looking to seize her family’s power.
Malik is kind and open-hearted and loves his sisters. Malik also struggles with self-confidence and heaps pressure upon himself. Even in a world where malevolent spirits are threatening his sister’s life, often Malik’s biggest enemy is himself. To save Nadia he not only has to kill Karina but also defeat the parts of himself that are holding him back. I particularly appreciated Brown’s characterization of Malik and his anxiety as something that he had to accept and face head-on rather than allow it to drive him further into despair.
I think my favorite scene from the whole book was Malik’s Hyena tale. It’s about midway through the book and it’s such a cool, illustrative scene. I can’t give away much about it. Just trust me, it’s cool!
Let’s talk about the narration. A.J. Beckles and Jordan Cobb knocked it out of the park. Beckles brought so much empathy and tenderness to Malik, and Cobb did an excellent job of showing shades of Karina’s vulnerability despite her tough exterior.
Commander Hamidou is also one of my favorite characters (especially by the end!), and I wish we had seen more of her. I’m also interested to learn more about Hyena and some of the other “hidden hands” in this world. Also, I just wanna say, I want a friend like Tunde.
If you want a fresh new fantasy, definitely pick up A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, A Psalm of Storms and Silence.