Book Review: STATE OF SORROW by Melinda Salisbury

State of Sorrow Book Review.png
Genre: Fantasy (political!)
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5/5 stars
Series: Yes - first of duology


Book cover for STATE OF SORROW: title in white on blue water

Sorrow – for that is all she brings us.

A people laid low by grief and darkness.
A cut-throat race for power and victory.
A girl with everything and nothing to lose…

By day, Sorrow governs the Court of Tears, covering for her grief-maddened father, who has turned their once celebrated land into a living monument for the brother who died before she was born.

By night, she seeks solace in the arms of the boy she’s loved since childhood. But one ghost won’t stop haunting her, and when enemies old and new close ranks against her, Sorrow must decide how far she’s willing to go to win…


This book was one of my favourite reads of 2018, and I loved it even more on re-reading. The synopsis (taken from the back cover) didn’t entice me at first because it doesn’t do justice to the book. I picked this book up because I love Salibury’s previous series (THE SIN-EATER’S DAUGHTER) and the cover was so beautiful. It is the prettiest book on my shelf.

This is a rare YA political fantasy that doesn’t try to hide what it is. Other political fantasies tend to hide to conceal that side of them with plenty of action (like THESE REBEL WAVES), but STATE OF SORROW embraces the political side. It’s a bold move, as it’s much less action packed than most YA, moving at a slower pace so the intricate schemes can slowly unfold with twist upon twist.

However, this book wouldn’t be half so good if it went down the typical YA political fantasy route. Sorrow ends up having to run for office, making speeches and attending rallies, all why trying to solve the mystery of whether her brother’s really returned – and what his mentor wants.

The story balances all of these elements superbly against the characters. They are such fun to be with, and drive the story forwards. Sorrow herself wrestles with doubts and whether she should be running for office (the country has a fake democracy, where one family is ‘elected’ into power, but this time there are two candidates). She felt so realistic, with all her fears and dreams. Her arc is powerful, but subtle – which honestly describes most of the book. There is much to be said for understated art.

The other characters are every bit as complex as Sorrow. Despite this book being entirely from Sorrow’s POV, the others were so nuanced with their own motivations and dreams. Irris and Luvian were my favourites. Irris is the best friend we all want; always has Sorrow’s back but isn’t afraid to tell her she’s wrong. Luvian is an enigma, and so much fun to read. He’s larger than life, bursting from the pages, with many clever ideas, and yet never out-muscled Sorrow.

There’s Charon, a mentor figure whose determination to serve the country first didn’t feel like a your stereotypical ‘mentor who just wants what’s best but it conflicts’. I think this was mainly due to the fact that he had a clear political role, and had to appear impartial. The antagonist – Vespus – was intimidating, particularly in the final interaction between them. It promises a brilliant book 2.

On top of this, Salibury’s lush writing paints the world vividly. The story focuses on two countries, both of which felt so different and yet part of the same world. The writing wraps around the plot, setting and characters, sweeping you along with beautiful phrases, none of which felt like purple prose. It was stark and poignant, a book that captivates heart and mind.

I’m so excited for SONG OF SORROW to come out and see where Sorrow’s journey goes next.

Want to read this book? Add it to your Goodreads Shelves here.

Sorrow (this series):

The Sin Eater’s Daughter:



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