Inspired by West African folklore, Roseanne A. Brown writes an action-packed tale infused with magical twists, family secrets, and cultural diversity. Her debut YA novel, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin features Karina Alahari and Malik Hilali—two protagonists on a trajectory to self-discovery and potential destruction.
Running and unraveling riddles are what Malik does best, although he is also prone to panic attacks, dreaming, and wandering alone. Having been beaten as a child for discussing his hallucinations, creating illusions, and communicating with supernatural beings called the grim folk, Malik’s powers have taken more from him than they have given.
Karina, on the other hand, is outgoing and careless but prone to migraines. She escapes her pain and finds solace in playing the oud, drawing strength from an anger born of fear and grief. Instead of fighting for something, Karina seems more intent on fighting against everyone—especially since the assassination of her mother, the queen Haisa Sarahel, whom everyone referred to as the Kestrel.
An Eshran refugee from the Odjubai Desert who is accustomed to being seen and treated as less than everyone else because of where he was born, Malik’s forged passport papers identify him as Adil Asfour. Under this disguise, he manages to find entry to the city of Ziran, a city of opulence where the elite citizenry enjoy plenty while those outside its walls suffer. Amid this socioeconomic disparity, Malik conducts himself with kindness and courage.
A member of the royal family, Karina represents the oppression and excess of a world of wealth and magic, a world intent on maintaining a social order that has decided that some people belong at the bottom. As Karina works to set right a world gone rotten and to root out traitors, the Ziranians are forced to accept that the Kestrel’s daughter has talons of her own.
Despite the chasm of differences that separate the two, both Karina and Malik possess a fierce loyalty to family—willing to make sacrifices that include necromancy, rites of resurrection, murder, and exchanging personal well-being for a family member. Both also come to realize that they have magical abilities which require practice and the revelation of secret knowledge. Pushing one another to unrealized limits, the two discover connections that bind them in ways that they are only beginning to understand. Despite the realization that each needs to kill the other in order to save family, their common ground and connection makes that vow harder and harder to keep.
As they confront life’s various conflicts, including a life with absent parents, both Malik and Karina learn that relying on bigoted beliefs can have dire consequences, that doing something wrong for the right reasons might still be wrong, and that life is a series of difficult choices with no right answers.
Brown joins the world’s great story tellers, the griots who preserve history with their hypnotic lure. As she writes; “To listen to a griot [is] to enter a new world, one where heroes danced across the heaven with spirits in their wake and where gods churned mountains into being with a flick of their wrists” (2). With her artful pen, she proves that there is magic in storytelling!
- Posted by Donna