Book Review: A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUINS by Roseanne A. Brown

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - first in duology
CW: Panic attacks


Book cover for A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN: Title in silver below a girl surrounded by swirling silk robe

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?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This was probably the most hyped YA fantasy release of the summer, a fact I think actually hindered my enjoyment of this book. Given all the hype, I was expecting everything from this book – and naturally didn’t get it. I wavered for a long time between giving this 3.5 stars and 4 stars, and decided to give it the benefit of the doubt – that it was just that I’d expected too much of it, all things considered.

I think the main thing was the lack of romance. It’s described in such a way that it heavily implies a romance between Karina and Malik. However, they have so few sequences together (and the book takes place over a week) that it was hard to believe in their attraction.

The romance itself is hardly present – a “I don’t want to kill him” moment from her, which didn’t feel earned. Given the acknowledgements mention help with realising “it’s a romance”, I was expecting much more. It felt very shaky, like it had been put in there purely because it was expected of a YA book.

This aside, the book was an enjoyable read. The pacing is very good, the story alternating between Malik and Karina as he tries to understand his new magic as the trial progresses, and she struggles with the court undermining her at every turn. They don’t share many scenes together and, romance aside, this means that they can focus on different aspects of the story. Theses different ideas prevented stagnation, as they stories didn’t mirror each other and thus feel repetitious. It makes for fast reading, despite the longer chapters.

I liked the setting, the city both claustraphobic in places, magical in others, and bustling in more. Given it’s one location, the distinction between the different parts was well done – and the story didn’t feel confined by the city walls until the plot demanded the reader felt the inability to leave.

The panic attack rep in this was so good and rang so true – from the coping mechanisms (not necessarily shown as “good” but also not judging and finding less harmful ones) to the way Malik responded/acknowledged them in the finale.

I am curious to see how the duology ends, given the last few chapters and the promise of history turned on its head (a trope I love.)


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