GENRE: YA Fantasy
LENGTH: 547 pages
In the aftermath of Princess Hanane's resurrection, Karina is a fugitive and Malik is in the grips of a power hungry Farid. As Karina fights to reclaim her throne, the very world is at stake.
CHARACTERS The characters can be divided into two camps. In camp Karina we have Karina herself, Caracal (a former castle guard who deserted), Ife (Caracal's companion), and Afua (a young noble girl). In camp Malik we have Malik himself, Farid (the antagonist who is currently acting as regent of Ziran), Hanane (the resurrected princess), Malik's sisters Nadia and Leia, and Idir (a being from the spirit realm who is trapped in Malik's head).
Karina in the first novel is not the most endearing character. She is quite selfish and irresponsible. In this novel she's still not the strongest protagonist but she is more palatable. She's become a lot more selfless and shows actual care and concern for her people. The only other character from her camp I have real comment on is Ife. He reminded me of Bo from the Girls of Paper and Fire trilogy by Natasha Ngan. Both serve as comic relief characters, but much as I love the Girls of Paper and Fire trilogy I think Ife was vastly better than Bo. While Bo made me cringe, Ife was much more understated and a nice addition if a tad underdeveloped.
Malik suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal ideation. As someone with the same diagnoses, I personally felt Brown did justice to his character. The representation was accurate and not offensive. Malik is definitely more morally grey in this novel than the first, but that is due to him being manipulated and groomed. Farid becomes Malik's mentor and the main antagonist of the duology. In the first novel his nefarious intentions are kept secret until the end while here they're a lot more blatant. He's abusive to all those around him and he knows how to keep them under his thumb. After reading this novel his actions in the first book take on a whole new context. Brown did a good job writing him because he's absolutely despicable.
The novel is told from the alternating third person perspectives of Karina and Malik. Unlike the first book there are a few chapters dispersed throughout narrated by a griot (storyteller). This didn't really add anything substantial to the story, but as a storytelling tool I think it had potential.
By far the best part of this duology is the world. The world is so rich, immersive, and expansive. It's full of culture and history and magic. There's a sense of vastness to this world and the idea that it existed long before the tiny section of time the story takes place in and that it will exist long after. I could see Brown easily writing a prequel if she chose to. There's certainly enough gold to mine for one.
The concept of magic and the different kinds (zawenji and ulraji) is introduced in the first book but it isn't until this one that we see it harnessed to its full potential. Really everything in this novel feels bigger and bolder than its predecessor. The stakes themselves are so much higher with the Rite of Resurrection causing disasters of biblical proportions.
This novel is the conclusion to the Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology. The story works more than sufficiently as a duology. However, I think it would have worked even better as a trilogy. This would have given Brown more time to expand upon the relationships in the novel. Also, in this novel in particular, the characters' changes were brought on too suddenly. They were all good changes, but they didn't feel earned.
This is a sequel done right. The first book is amazing, but everything in this novel is elevated. There's more magic, more danger, and more world building. This series has a special place in my heart because it's my first time reading anxiety representation in my favorite genre. I can also see it meaning a lot to young dark skinned black kids who don't get to see themselves represented often enough in the genre. I still maintain that this might have worked a tad better has a trilogy. I can't deny, however, that Brown impressed me with her world building and the writing of certain characters (especially Malik and Farid). She crafted perhaps the best villain character I've ever read. If you're into YA fantasy then this duology is a sure win.
Suicidal ideation, panic attacks, grooming, mental and physical abuse.
FINAL RATING: 4⭐️