A Song of Wraiths and Ruin Book Review! // a solid debut with a few hiccups

Hi friends! I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine’s/Galentine’s Day! Regardless of whether you have a significant other, I hope you felt the love of family, friends, and God’s love. Anyways, I’m here today to talk about one of the books I’ve been wanting to read since last year. Sooo let’s talk about it!

TW/CW: grief, panic/anxiety attacks, death, abuse

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?

This book. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a fantastic YA fantasy debut, on all accounts. It does everything well: the worldbuilding, the characters, the plotting, the magic. On the other hand, it doesn’t quite excel at any of those aspects either.

let’s talk about the things i liked!!

  • The folklore! I enjoyed all the different West-African inspired myths and legends come to life. I really loved how the author incorporated it into the world, with there being different temples: fire, water, sun, earth, and life. Since I’m pretty ignorant, all of this was pretty new to me!
  • This book FLEW by. While the pacing was slow at times, I was genuinely just so invested in this world. There were chapters of the Trials, chapters with court politics, and chapters with magical discoveries. I also thought it was well-plotted for the most part? I guessed the big plot twist without much effort, but it was still enjoyable.
  • I absolutely adored the representation in this book. Yes, it has a cast of diverse characters, but there’s also focus on one of our main characters, Malik, who has panic attacks. The author put trigger warnings at the beginning of the book too so heck yeah for that!

okay. i DO have some personal issues with this book, however.

This is a book that thrives in pushing forward the plot by way of our two main characters. The side characters are just sorta…there. I liked some of them, but I never felt truly connected to them either. Because this book relies so heavily on its main characters, let’s talk about them!

Malik was such a freaking cinnamon roll. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH. It was so very refreshing seeing a humble, soft male character. He also suffers from panic attacks, and the way he deals with them is just so realistic??? Like, props to the author for including that. I also just adored his relationship with his two sisters.

Karina…is my biggest issue with the book. Her chapters were technically more interesting! But her character. It’s been so long since I found a main character I truly didn’t enjoy reading about. She’s both clever and stupid, incessantly obnoxious even at her most vulnerable moments, and terribly frustrating.

And that’s the thing: this book hinges on its two main characters. Everything from the romance to the high stakes is driven by them. If you don’t like one, it’s hard to fully appreciate the story. For example, the enemies-to-lovers trope is my favorite! But I can’t ship it if I don’t like half the ship!

With that in mind, I also struggled with understanding the rules of the magic system. That could just be because I listened to it on audio (and uh…we all know how that goes when it comes to me) but I was definitely more than a little confused as to why certain characters could just use magic to do anything? Like, there’s a point where Malik goes from conjuring up a simple illusion to suddenly being able to cast invisibility over multiple people with zero training or consequences. I’m hoping that this is explained better in the sequel!

To summarize, I definitely enjoyed this a lot! I think I would have loved this more if I’d actually liked Karina. Overall, I’d give this 3.75 stars. If you’re new to YA fantasy, I’d really recommend this one! Share with me your thoughts on this!

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