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A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

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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?

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.

466 pages, Hardcover

First published June 2, 2020

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Roseanne A. Brown

11 books1,422 followers

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5,116 (29%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,885 reviews
Profile Image for Regan.
457 reviews110k followers
June 9, 2023
4.5 - such a strong debut! This has everything I love in YA fantasy AND THEN SOME
July 27, 2020

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DNF @ p.130

I originally wasn't going to rate this book, since it was a debut and I didn't particularly care for the writing style, but people keep coming onto this review and leaving me rude comments saying that apparently you aren't allowed to write (non-rated) reviews for books you haven't read... so while I wait for my copy to renew again from the library, and since I did read almost a quarter of it, I will post my (rated) review with my thoughts so far, and will update if they change once I try to read it again and give it a second shot.

A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN is the first in a fantasy duology with Black characters, "in a world inspired by West African folklore." Our hero and heroine are Malik and Karina. Karina is a princess whose mother has just been assassinated and whose court is in the midst of political upheaval. Malik is poor and part of a discriminated-against cultural minority, and he and his sisters end up in a Jareth from Labyrinth-type situation with one of the gods when his younger sister accidentally makes a bargain and the only way to save her is to, you guessed it, assassinate the princess Karina.

There isn't anything objectively wrong with this book but I had a lot of trouble getting into it and when I stalled at page 130, I ended up returning it to the library for the next person. I was told that this was inspired by Aladdin and I can sort of see that; Malik is soft (in a good way) and cares for his sisters, and he wants freedom from the life that consistently beats him and his family down. Likewise, Karina is a princess who feels like she's in a gilded cage, and longs for freedom from her own, different brand of oppression. Plus, they're enemies-to-lovers, and there's a gladiatorial element, too. I loved the premise and I even liked what the author was trying to do with the characters. It just has the same sort of bland, plodding story-telling that countless other young adult fantasy books of this type has, which is made evident by its BLANK OF BLANK AND BLANK formatted title. Far too many YA fantasy novels have this bland, inoffensive mode of story-telling-- and not inoffensive in, "wow, there's nothing un-PC in this book, I am so angry!" but inoffensive as in, the book doesn't really take a lot of risks and plays everything very safe by sticking to a formula that feels very linear and predictable. I've had similar complaints about Sarah J. Maas's and Renee Ahdieh's work, and while I did enjoy Roseanne A. Brown's better than theirs, it still felt tedious to get through. It's worth pointing out that I'm not a teen, and I am not Black, and I feel like a lot of teens, and especially Black teens, will enjoy this book, because seeing yourself reflected in the narrative is a privilege that not all of us can enjoy. I just really couldn't get into it, and I'm going to try again, and if I feel like it improves upon a second read, I will adjust my rating and post an update to my review reflecting that.

2 stars
April 2, 2021
3.5/5 stars, rounded up because I really appreciated the mental illness rep. We don't get enough of that in fantasy books these days.

I'll clean up this review later, but here's a summary of my thoughts:

- The incorporation of African mythology was great, and I loved the Hyena stories. I hope we get to hear more of those.
- Love me a good musician, and Karina's performance skills were a fun addition.
- As I mentioned, the mental illness rep was great. Malik's panic attacks and Karina's migraines and grief were depicted really well. I feel like mental illness gets neglected in fantasy, despite the fact that fantasy characters face so many horrors and deaths in their lives.
- The audiobook narrators were really good at capturing emotion and bringing the story to life.
- Pacing wasn't great. The story dragged a lot in places, and then the last 15-ish% was suddenly WAY too fast, with a lot going on and changing in a way that didn't feel reasonable or consistent with the rest of the book
- The magic system was a little confusing and not well-developed, but I'm hoping they'll address that more in the second book
- Karina's impulsiveness and immaturity made her pretty annoying. I know it's supposed to be part of how she deals with her trauma, but it didn't read that way--she's supposedly really smart, but also lazy, and she always seems to get lucky when she messes up, and it just didn't work for me.
- But man, I loved Malik. That precious anxious baby must be protected at all costs.
- Several of the "twists" at the end were really predictable, especially a certain betrayal (keeping this vague to avoid spoilers)
- The different types of sibling relationships--the love between Malik and his siblings, Karina's complicated feelings toward Hanane--were an interesting dichotomy
- The romance didn't feel compelling or organic.
- I liked the competition for Solstasia, but it was made out to be such a big deal and then took up such little actual space in the story. Felt like it got short-changed. I want more fantasy competitions!

All that said, I do still want to read the sequel, because despite its faults (largely faltering on major components), the story did set up a lot of interesting new plot threads at the end and I'm curious how they'll play out. And, you know, I just want to see more of Malik coming into his own.

(If you're wondering why this review has so many likes, it's from this "pre-review" I wrote in December 2019):
Plot: sounds amazing
Cover: so pretty
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
October 5, 2020
I really appreciate Brown's thought and care into the worldbuilding and the way she infuses West African mythology and culture into the story. There’s a lot of love written for Brown’s culture and it’s infused in everything from the folklore to all the delicious food that gets described. She also makes sure to highlight internal issues that the protagonists face like anxiety and panic attacks, and it’s especially important to see that softness and vulnerability in a male lead. I was most impressed by how Malik’s mental illness plays a role in the climax of this story - it feels very validating to me who deals with their own internal struggles, and I’m sure will be the case for many other readers as well. I am rating this 3.5 stars based on my personal level of enjoyment, which stems from not really getting attached to the characters or believing in the romance. However, this is a common attitude I’ve had towards the YA fantasy genre in general, so I would encourage people to take my rating for this with a grain of salt, especially considering that I am not the intended audience or demographic. If you are looking for something new and different in the world building of YA fantasy, especially one that’s influenced by non-European cultures, check this book out!
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
September 27, 2020
from a cultural standpoint, this book is fantastic. the diversity and representation (especially the anxiety rep!) is what gives this story its power. theres so much magic and heart and imagery. it reminded me very much of ‘children of blood and bone.’

and although im not as obsessed with the plot (full of YA clichés) and characters (karina is soooo annoying) as everyone else seems to be, i still found this to be a pretty good story. i thought malik was a high point - his humble nature is quite sweet to read about. i also enjoyed the ending. i think it concludes naturally and sets the story up well for the next book.

overall, this is a very lovely debut!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for giulia ✿.
371 reviews247 followers
Shelved as 'owned-tbr-pile'
March 23, 2020
Thank you Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for the ARC.

in case you need some good news right now, the author describes this book as: black princess who doesn't give a fuck, black boy who gives so many fucks, slow burn enemies to lovers romance with PINING, so much backstabbing.

it's literally a west african jasmine and aladdin au but they need to kill each other despite obvious attraction.


Profile Image for Jananie (thisstoryaintover).
290 reviews13.8k followers
June 18, 2020
UGH SO GOOD. I NEED BOOK TWO NOWWW. loved both our main characters as the book alternates perspectives between Malik (our soft boy) and Karina (our determined fierce girl). this fantasy world is so rich with magic and history and truly comes alive on the page. BUT DAMN THE PLOT TWISTS, i need to know what happens next. this is the beginning of something epic, i can feel it.
Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,195 followers
Want to read
June 11, 2020
I got a headache just by reading the description. It sounds too complicated for my mental capacity.
Profile Image for Samantha.
441 reviews16.7k followers
January 10, 2021
3.5 stars

tw: death of family members; anxiety/panic attacks; hallucinations; self harm; possession

This was an intriguing start to a fantasy duology featuring a world and magic inspired by West African folklore. The world is lush and interesting, with a lot to build on. Creatures, celebrations, dieties, spirits, different kinds of magic.. this has it all!

I enjoyed both of our main characters seperately, but less so when their paths crossed. Karina is an angry, stubborn character without feeling cold, and I enjoyed that about her. She does have migraines, but it could be argued that there's a magical cure element to her illness. Malik is a quiet, kind boy who struggles with panic attacks and hallucinations. Again, not sure I loved how this was handled. As someone with panic disorder and also a mental health professional, the message of him fighting his anxiety which was pretty central to parts of the story rubbed me the wrong was as fighting your anxiety is actually the opposite of how to make it "better." So seeing story threads about fighting anxiety wasn't great. Also there was some insta-love elements to these two characters and their connection once they do meet that wasn't necessary. I did not feel any spark with them.

The story was also a tad too long for me. It lost my attention at places, and I do think it could have been tightened up with some edits. But overall, I enjoyed this and plan to continue with the series.

Video review to come!

Profile Image for Ashley Nuckles.
190 reviews7,204 followers
July 5, 2020
SO FREAKING GOOD!! I absolutely loved every second of this story. Between the rich worldbuilding to the dual perspectives of Malik and Karina (who both I was SO MAD AT sometimes but could always bring myself to love again), this story was brilliant! Can’t wait for book two!!
Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,751 followers
July 2, 2023
RTC (Spotify book playlist)


I'm proud of how different communities are supporting #BlackLivesMatter in the current climate.


Thanks to Cath, I've found out Fairyloot has a limited exclusive edition of this book, all of the profits for which go to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which supports the Black College Community and thousands of Black college students.

It's hardcover and comes with green sprayed edges and a signed book plate. For more info, go HERE.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
2,085 reviews5,067 followers
September 2, 2020
I have so many conflicting feelings about this book. I mean sooooo many. But I think I'm going to go with giving this one a 3.75 and hope that I can explain why my feelings are all over the place .

So A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a debut YA fantasy and the premise for this book is extremely interesting. Both main characters are seeking to help their families in ways that will put them into situations where they would ultimately kill each other. Of course this doesn't end up working out the way that they anticipate once they have the opportunity to meet each other face to face. Ultimately, I think that this novel did a lot of things well. I loved the anxiety representation. I'm not sure if I've ever seen that done in YA fantasy novel. I've always felt like I'm more inclined to see that representation in a YA contemporary. I feel like the world and magic system were interesting (I actually have more thoughts on this to come later in the review). And the last 20% of the book was AMAZING. There were so many twists and turns and plot reveals that I didn't necessarily see coming. I was shocked by the connections that were made that I didn't necessarily see coming in the beginning of the novel. There were some elements that were a little obvious, but others were not. Brown did a great job creating morally grey characters as well. There were people I thought I would actively dislike, but once more of their struggles were revealed I couldn't help but have a little more compassion. It didn't justify their behavior, but it helped to understand why they handled situations in a certain manner. There was also this emphasis on a strong female lead while having a softer, easier going male lead. I feel like you don't see this a lot in YA fantasy. The female lead is usually strong, but then she's met with a stronger or even stronger male lead. Malik was designed to be more gentle and not this character that was centered around brute force. His kindness was more important. I feel like with that she really challenged the gender roles that we often see in fantasy books.

HOWEVER, there were some issues that I had with this book namely in the form of world development, magic system development, and the "romance." I'm the type of fantasy reader that likes to have a solid understanding of the magic system and world before fully diving into a book. I know that there are parts in which an author can't divulge too much for the sake of plot development; however, I truly feel like the magic system and world building in the beginning of this novel were confusing. There seemed to be this lack of clarity and I understoof why she did that by the end of the novel; however, I know that it may stop people from seeking to continue it. It was the same way with the magic system. A huge portion of it felt confusing until the middle and end of the book. A part of me wishes there was a "key" to describe a little bit more about each alignment. I think that we would have had a little bit more clarity about the world. I was also bothered with the fact that there was a woman introduced into the Solstasia challenges which meant that Karina could have married a woman, but it wasn't really fleshed out and it felt like that character was thrown in for the sake of diversity--like the author was attempting to say that bisexual characters could exist, but then we're not really going to fully explore that or give that character a true chance. I'm just not a huge fan of diversity for the sake of diversity. It creates one-dimensional, flat characters. I also felt as though Karina and Malik gave off more friend vibes than anything. I would have preferred a strong friendship compared to a romance, but that's just me.

Don't get me wrong. I definitely will be picking up the second book. That ending had my mind completely and totally blown and I'm sure that I'll have a better grasp on the magic system and the world as a whole, but I did have some issues with this first one. Overall, it is a solid debut and I would definitely recommend checking it out.
Profile Image for myo ⋆。˚ ❀ *.
823 reviews6,890 followers
October 1, 2020
i honestly don’t know how to feel, i don’t want to rate this book until i get my thoughts straight because i really was forcing myself to read this book and i feel like it would be unfair to the author. i really loved malik as a character, he was so soft and the rep for his anxiety was amazing but i didn’t really care for karina, i found myself dreading her characters because i feel like her character and her characters drive wasn’t conveyed well. i wasn’t convinced with the romance because sis didn’t even know his name until like the 70% mark. i also want to add that the twist was very predictable but that’s fine! i love that there are more fantasy’s for black girls and this is what we need! i’m still excited for the sequel and if you’re interested in this book please still check it out.
Profile Image for Leonie.
66 reviews40.7k followers
July 9, 2020
Enjoyable and unique but all in all rather mediocre.

The constant telling instead of showing, lack of interesting character motives and instalove made me feel disconnected from this story. A shame, because the world is unique and i feel this had a lot of potential. I did have an overall good time reading this, though (especially loved all the lore and storytelling aspects).

I go a bit more in depth in my video review!
Profile Image for Kiki.
197 reviews8,524 followers
August 4, 2020
Honestly one of the best fantasies I’ve read in a while. Lush, elaborate worldbuilding, genuine emotional stakes, beautiful imagery, engaging writing, and best of all, the story COMMITTED to itself. The grief, the familial relationships, the depiction of anxiety as an actual debilitating illness - this book showed up and actually delivered on its promises. Not only that, but it treats its villains with compassion and does not rest on the trite cliché of “good vs evil”.

A unique, compelling, exciting read that truly shows what YA fantasy can accomplish.

Also, Dedele exudes the most exquisite lesbian warrior energy and I love her, thanks bye.
Profile Image for Tricia Levenseller.
Author 16 books13.4k followers
February 15, 2021
This book gets five stars alone for Malik’s character. If you’re looking for more anxiety rep in high fantasy, definitely pick this one up!
Profile Image for toointofiction.
217 reviews211 followers
October 17, 2021
“Now that he was seeing Karina up close, mistaking her for a servant felt like having mistaken the sun for a candle.”

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (more like 4,7)

❗❗No spoilers, here. You're all good.❗❗


I dug up some weird, scattered notes I had of my thoughts on this book to re-write this review. And it was all for you guys. Because you're a fabulous bunch of cuties.

The story was very well written. Roseanne Brown has done an excellent job with it. The West African Folklore she based it on was absolutely fascinating to read, and beautifully combined with the rest of the story. It was so good that I actually researched it a little bit more. The plot was so, so good. It's nothing any of us haven't read before, nothing really original, more like your typical I-came-to-kill-you-but-I-ended-up-loving-you kind of story, but very, very good nontheless. Seriously though, you can never go wrong with enemies-to-lovers. (duh) I did find the fact that both Karina and Malik were planning on killing the other each for their own reasons to be a very nice touch. It wasn't just one person trying to kill the other, it was both of them planning to kill each other and that's just sooo muuch better. There were a few slow-paced moments here and there, but other than that it was an excellent read.

I loved Karina and Malik so much. Just like the plot, they were very well-written characters. Karina is a badass, not the warrior kind which was really refreshing, but still not a damsel-in-distress, a silghtly spoiled princess who messes around with the stable boys and fights with her mom constantly. A badass with constant anxiety attacks stemming from terrible trauma. Unlike the plot, Malik was a very, very original character. He is definitely not the warrior type, but a loveable MC nontheless. Because sometimes, it's not the muscular, 500+ year-old, experienced magic/weapon wielder that makes a good character. Sometimes, it's this nobody, skinny kid, plagued by terrible anxiety, and magical powers that he was made to think was maddness. A magic that alienated him from the rest of his community.

And I absolutely loved how well mental illness was represented through both Malik's and Karina's characters. It was respectful and accurate, showing the readers exactly what happens to a person that experienced this horrible sensation. The chemistry between the two enemies was off the charts. 😍*chef's kiss*😍. Despite their intentions with each other they work very well together, their scenes were full of 🔥🥵🔥🥵 and they most definitely care about each other dispite what they'll tell you.

I HIGHLY recommend this!!
Profile Image for Zoe.
331 reviews1,441 followers
August 19, 2021


So I like this book and hate it at the same time because the author SOMEHOW puts in quality’s that I love and HATE. So that’s fun for me.

Karina stands on the fine line between a badass and a bitch. She is SO WHINY. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!! At times she was such a badass like when she beat the champion but then SHE THREW THE GODDAMN BOOK INTO A CANON. A BOOK. The poor, poor, poor book. How my heart bleeds for that book. Ok I’m getting carried away. ANYWAYS I HATE HER.

Ok here is what she says: “Well, now, Karina felt extra bad that she’d accidentally dropped the book down the gorge. She’d also sat on it at least twice before that. Woops”


HE HAD ONE JOB. And had multiple attempts to do it. BUT HE DIDN'T. And not even because he was in love with Karina because they built a relationship under pretences. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER. But NOOOOO. He didn’t even know her personally AND HE COULDN'T KILL HER FOR HIS SISTER.
You might say: Oh but Zoe he can sow and knit braids he’s the perfect man. I DON'T CARE HE IS USELESS.

If you were to ask me: Zoe, I heard there are AMAZING enemies to lovers' romance . Is that true?
NO NO NO. There was no tension and they hated each other and then they slowly realised that each other is not that bad. THAT IS WHAT I WANTED. But instead I go this half assed attempt and the best trope. IM SO MADDDDDD

THE ONE SCENE I HAD WAS: “….Twice now” Said Karina. Malik coughed “Twice what?” “Twice now I’ve had you on your knees”


The only reason this book is three stars is because of the plot. It was well thought out AND THAT PLOT TWIST AT THE END. I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.

Thank you for reading my review
Profile Image for Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura).
522 reviews758 followers
January 31, 2021
And I’ve found another favorite book! When I first read the synopsis I knew this was a book that I needed in my life. I’m happy that I actually took my time with it because the world building was something to behold. It was so much more complex than I thought. Every minute was riddled with stories and folklore and it was all just so magnificent that I couldn’t really put the book down (had to force myself to most of the time). It wasn’t in an info dumping way but everything was told when it needed to be. You never got to know something unless it was the absolute perfect moment for it.

The story was told from two point of view, Karina and Malik. I finished this book loving both of them and you can bet I would do anything for these two. Karina had this presence that was always so interesting to follow. Her thoughts and feelings always felt so real and it was so easy to lose yourself in them. I loved Karina as a protagonist! She was always so sassy and determined but she also had that side of her that no one really knew about. Then of course we have Malik. This will possible become a bit too long. Malik was a complete surprise. I’m so used to seeing strong and macho main male characters that when we first met Malik I was giddy with excitement. Malik is unlike any main character you’ve ever met. He was very soft spoken but determined in every way if it came down to saving his family. He had anxiety and reading that resonated with me so much. The way it was written was done so perfectly, and as someone with anxiety and who has had panic attacks before this meant the whole world to me. Malik is by far one of my absolute favorite characters because he wasn’t strong in the ways that people expected him to be, but in his own way and that’s what mattered the most. The definition of a soft boy and I loved it.

I really enjoyed the story too! It was really interesting. It’s inspired by West African folklore and that added so much depth to the story. There were quite a few plot twists. Some I had guessed while others just had me screaming. Those last couple of pages were such a wild ride. The book ended too soon! I can’t wait for the second book. I have so many questions and I’m looking forward to it so so much.

This is a book that I recommend with my whole heart. I’ve recommended quite a few books this year but please do consider this one too! I can’t express enough how much I loved it. I just need you all to pick it up as soon as possible.

Review on my blog!
Profile Image for hiba.
259 reviews380 followers
September 28, 2022
CWs: grief, parental death, murder, violence, self-harm, panic attacks, anxiety, alcohol use

Rep: West African inspired world + mythology, all-Black cast, MC with major anxiety and panic attacks

Fully-realized complex characters with dual points of view, rich world-building, gripping plot and a romance to root for - I wish this was the kind of YA fantasy I'd read in my teens.

So let's break it down.

Complex characters

"You are not strong in body, no. No one will ever sing songs about your physical prowess. But you are kind, Malik Hilali. Do not underestimate the strength it takes to be kind in a world as cruel as ours."

Hands down Malik stole the show for me. A refugee escaping his crumbling war-torn home alongside his sisters, seeking a better life in the very city that wreaked havoc on his country - only for a dangerous spirit to steal his younger sister and trap him in an impossible deal.

I don't remember ever reading a fantasy that has a main POV character with major anxiety, who experiences panic attacks quite frequently. I really appreciated this inclusion in a high fantasy story and how it contributed to Malik's character arc and growth. He's an absolute sweetheart - a kind, soft-spoken, empathetic boy with a flair for storytelling who just wants his family to be okay. He's nervous, awkward, quick to cry, shy around new people, uncertain of his powers, lacking in self-worth - and though he constantly stumbles, he never stops getting back up and fighting. I loved seeing his journey and cheered at his every success.

"Anyone who tried to take this city from her would soon discover that the Kestrel’s daughter had talons of her own."

Karina, our fierce, insecure princess is a flawed, fascinating character. Still grieving the deaths of her father and older sister years ago, she feels stifled within the palace walls and increasingly dreads her eventual succession to the throne. Although her character feels more generic compared to Malik's, the author breathes fresh life into Karina by making her complex; she deals with a lot of personal insecurity, fear, loss and loneliness but when the time comes for her to step up, she's able to bury it all under a veneer of unwavering confidence and authority. She's determined to fight for justice and goes after her goals with tenacity. Karina gets so much taken away from her time and time again and she learns to live with grief while fiercely fighting against her enemies.

I do think there's a lot more room for growth with her character though; for instance, although Karina is horrified at the truths about her country's cruelty and xenophobia, she's still unable to look past her privilege, like when she wonders why Malik is so intent upon defending a "lowly servant".

The side characters were so wonderful too. Although we only got glimpses for most of them, they completely intrigued me and I can't wait to see more of them in the future.

Rich world-building

The sheer care and thought that went into constructing this vibrant world can be felt with every word - the history, the folklore, the mythology, the different cultures and their dynamics, the religion. I love how all these elements are so seamlessly woven into the plot and character work. The background and class of each character colors their interactions and world views and I liked how it also displayed the diversity of African cultures. The story's confrontation of colonialism was also great to see, with the Zirani occupation of Malik's home, the Eshran Mountains. I can see the parallels that can be drawn from the way Zirani soldiers treated Eshran citizens to real world issues like police brutality and current occupations and war-stricken countries.

Also, the magic system was cool. The way it's connected to the story's unique astrology system and spirituality was just chef's kiss - I kinda wanted more detail on the patron deities and their eras though.

Gripping plot

High fantasy paired with court intrigue and political machinations - is there a better combination? Throw in a tournament, a quest, puzzling riddles, and high stakes and you're in for a ride. There are a lot of fantasy tropes at work here and they're done so well. Some of the plot twists were easy to guess but others I did not see coming at all. I also really liked the depth given to the main villains. The plot never takes a rest and I absolutely raced through the book.

As for the romance, just check out the tropes: enemies to lovers (as in on opposite sides, have to kill each other), super slow burn, soft boy/fierce girl, angst for days. But I have to say with the hype the romance in this book has gotten, there's honestly not much of it. Karina and Malik have only a handful of scenes together and it's as insta-love as you can get, since they fall for each other after maybe three interactions over a couple of days. I didn't really mind that and I liked that this story was more about their individual journeys, but I'm really hoping to see a bit more romance in the sequel.

Personally, I was more invested in Malik's relationship with his older sister Leila. They have such a believable and painfully real sibling dynamic; one thing that stood out to me was when Malik wondered whether he and Leila would have ever been friends if they weren't siblings. Their personalities clash and they often lash out at each other, but throughout it all there's an undercurrent of unconditional love and support and I just love the Hilali siblings okay.

The only major complaint I have with this book is the writing style - it feels fairly awkward in places and quite lacking in descriptions when it comes to certain emotions, actions and just general movement within scenes. I think this comes with the territory for debut authors and it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story too much.

Ultimately, I adored this novel and I'm impatient for the sequel already.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,727 reviews867 followers
July 24, 2022
#1) A Psalm of Storms and Silence ★★★★★

An instant favourite of the year, just wow.

Trigger warnings for .

Representation: Ghanaian-inspired setting & cast; Malik (mc) has anxiety.

BlogTrigger Warning DatabaseStoryGraph
Profile Image for Zoe Stewart (Zoe's All Booked).
309 reviews1,453 followers
September 23, 2020

I need a minute to collect myself after finishing this. It's the first YA fantasy I've read in a loonng while that didn't have a romance that took over the entire plot. There was a hint of a romance, and I cannot WAIT to see how it plays out in light of the last few chapters.

My body is so ready for the next book!
Profile Image for Lexi.
513 reviews231 followers
August 14, 2020
Boy okay, big unpopular opinion here- this was fine.

TLDR Tropes-

- "Hunger Games" trials
- Multi POV
- Sweet boy, tough girl
- Demons and magical oaths
- Court drama
- Rags to riches
- Own voices fantasy

At it's best, ASOWAR was exciting, dramatic, and fills you with a sense of Disney wonder. At it's worst, it's slow and boring. The pacing structure is incredibly strange- sometimes picking up and moving with grace and speed- and other times, dragging and focusing on details that didn't feel like they were contributing a lot to the story and atmosphere as a whole.

ASOWAR is another A __ of ___ and ___ YA about princess Karina, who is desperately trying to revive her mother after she is murdered by an assassin. It is also about Malik, a young man from an underprivileged background who is trying to save his sister from a monster that has ensnared her.

Karina needs the heart of a king to complete her resurrection ritual, and Malik is told specifically to kill her.

The backdrop for this is a large festival, where competitors from all across the kingdom compete for a grand prize- this year, the princesses hand in marriage.

Karina was by far the hi light of this book. Shes a princess with a sharp tongue and an affinity for playing music- she's sort of the "second son"- and has been wildly considered a bit of a screw up. Her character frequently bangs out fun and witty dialogue and the way the other characters interact with her can be interesting, as she often defies their expectations of her as a spoiled, screw up princess.

Malik's chapters were much slower for me, with a lot of unnecessary focus on his trials. He's an all around nice guy with some magical connection, but by and large I wasn't taken in by his journey and felt his development was limited. He and Karina do not meet until about the middle of the book.

There is some romance between the two characters, but since they meet very late, a lot of their scenes are jam packed into a few chapters and isn't terribly fleshed out.

Regardless, my main issue is that none of the side characters were interesting enough for me to care much about, which made the lack of scenes between our leads pretty tedious. Most of the secondary characters are used as plot devices to move Malik and Karina into place as the story progresses and lack much genuine depth or growth that makes them worth mentioning.

And that is were I really struggle with this book, because while so many of the scenes I found well written, exciting, and unique, the book as a whole isn't memorable to me. It feels like a chop of Throne of Glass and Wrath and the Dawn, only with a limited scope of characters who speak to each other a handful of times.

What was the big problem here!? That I felt like the marketing for this book was genuinely dishonest and told a lot of possible fans what they wanted to hear instead of what the content of the book actually is.

That being said, the set up for the second book in this duology looked pretty cool, so I will probably check it out. I didn't hate this book, but it was really hyped as an Aladdin inspired enemies to lovers epic, and I just didn't get out of it what I was hoping to. While the author is excellent, I wanted more out of this. Many reviewers were hyping it as the best YA fantasy of 2020. I am not mad, just disappointed.
Profile Image for Lucie V..
1,014 reviews2,068 followers
April 29, 2022
✅ Folklore
✅ Gorgeous cover
🆗 World-building
🆗 Characters
🆗 Magic system
🆗 Plot and pace
🆗 Info-dumps
🆗❌ Romance / kind of insta-love

2.5 stars

I am disappointed. This book was not bad, but it was nothing exceptional either.

Malik and his 2 sisters are fleeing their dangerous homeland and are hoping to find a job in the capital city, but when Malik's younger sister is captured by a magical being, their plan changes. The only way Malik can have his sister back is to kill princess Karina. On the other side of the city, Karina's mother just died and Karina hopes to bring her back to life with an old magic ritual, but she needs a king's heart to do so. Add to this some plotting to overthrow Karina and take control of the city, some betrayal, and a lot of folklore and storytelling.

The romance is quite predictable (the whole ''I need to kill you but somehow I find myself attracted to you'') but I honestly could not get into the whole romance thing because Malik behaves and thinks like he is 13 or 14 years old. How old is he actually? Because he says at some point that the 5 years since his dad left them do not even represent a third of his life. Are we to understand that he is not even 15 years old yet? If that is the case, having him master old magic, run around the city, and fall in love with Karina seems pretty unrealistic.

Both main characters are quite annoying and boring honestly, and because of that, I couldn't really relate to them, get invested in their romance or in their adventure in general. As for their "chemistry", well I am still looking for it because I sure did not feel any chemistry between Karina and Malik in this book.

The world-building is not so different from many other books I have read (but that's what happens after a while when you read so many YA and fantasy novels I guess) and the magic was subtly weaved into it. Not everyone knows about magic, even fewer people can use it, but it is present in folklore and history. Some of the information is a little bit confusing at first (regarding the history of the land) and there is also some info-dumping in the first part of the book.

This was not a bad book, but I still can't get over the fact (or the impression I have at least) that Malik is a 13 years old or 14 years old teenager and I have trouble connecting with that. The ending is also quite open, with no big cliffhanger. There is obviously a sequel coming, but I really don't think that I will read it because I am not feeling this urge to know what will happen to the characters.

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Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
532 reviews706 followers
February 27, 2022
Once this book hit it's stride it was a wild rush. I didn't want to put this story down and miss a moment.

This book was pitched as "What if Jasmine and Aladdin tried to kill each other?"

So I was already prepared for action and intrigue which this story delivers.

Katrina needs a king's heart to perform a ritual to revive her slain mother and Malik needs to kill Karina to free his sister from a powerful being.

YA fantasy mixing romance into it can sometimes be really cringey in the execution. Luckily those were not found here. I didn't feel like the relationship between Karina and Malik was forced. You'll like Malik for his sensitive soul and Karina for her quick wit.

Definitely not a debut to ignore.

Profile Image for Nadhira Satria.
440 reviews746 followers
February 24, 2020
DNF 60% because I can't take it anymore and I don't care enough and nor do I have the will to continue
I'm so beyond disappointed. This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. The summary made it sound so interesting but I can't say the same for the execution.
It started really slow and boring. There was a LOT of info dumps and the worldbuilding was super confusing with so many names thrown around. It was just all over the place. I also didn't like the writing, I'm not saying that the writing is bad but it's simply just not my thing. I'm so sad that it didn't work out for me since it looked amazing to read at first.

ARC provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for ;3.
442 reviews886 followers
June 30, 2020
malik really said EYE will choose royal coochie over saving my sister from an evil spirit
Profile Image for sol✯.
766 reviews118 followers
February 8, 2021
its 1 am
haven't done this in a while
it's great to be frickin up my sleep schedule again.
review to come when I'm coherent

edit: it's been 6 months
I'm kinda coherent now
malik deserves rights
he is mentally ill and hot
which is a mood
Karina is hot AS FUCK
extra points for dark skin characters
this is straight and I cared
I'm shocked as well
lol why did I say 'frickin' shut the fuck up bitch
not me acting like I don't swear multiple times in one sentences everyday lol
it's so late and i am desperate for the sequel
It's a debut and there were a LOT of issues but it's late so POSITIVITY
4.5 🌟-----------------

edit: I woke up checked Goodreads saw this review and I do not remember writing it but its a vibe and funny so imma leave it
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,110 reviews6,574 followers
August 22, 2020
“Do not underestimate the strength it takes to be kind in a world as cruel as ours.”

representation: all Black cast (own voices West African inspired fantasy), anxiety and panic attacks.

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]


I really enjoyed this! I did guess who the baddie was pretty early on though and I think I was expecting more based on the huge amount of hype surrounding this book, but it was a really solid read and I can't wait for the sequel!

trigger warnings (also note that the trigger warnings were listed at the start at the book. WE LOVE TO SEE IT): mild self-harm ideation, fantasy violence, emotional and physical abuse, anxiety and panic attacks, parent death and animal death.
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