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A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN

Revitalizing and exciting, Brown’s debut breathes life into ancient but still relevant folk stories.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020


  • New York Times Bestseller

Two teens, destined to destroy each other, are caught up in romance, palace intrigue, and magic.

Seventeen-year-old, silver-haired, dark brown–skinned Karina is the reluctant crown princess of Ziran. After losing her sister and father to a mysterious fire, then her mother to an assassin, Karina is desperate to resurrect a suitable ruler for Ziran—even if that means taking a dark path into necromancy. Brooding, light brown–skinned Malik is a refugee from the mountain territories of Eshra, where his family is oppressed by Zirani occupation. He travels with his two sisters seeking work during the festival of Solstasia, a celebration that happens every 50 years and ushers in a new age of leadership under one of the patron deities. After tangling with a malevolent spirit, Malik finds himself promising to kill Karina in order to save the life of his little sister. There’s no time for readers to catch their breath as Brown’s complex plot winds and races from beginning to end. Still, the story never feels rushed or underdeveloped, and her exceptionally well-built world is infused with North and West African tricksters, naming conventions, and religious traditions. Matrilineal heritage dictates who rules in Ziran, a place where peripheral queer representation is accepted and celebrated.

Revitalizing and exciting, Brown’s debut breathes life into ancient but still relevant folk stories. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289149-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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