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A Song of Wraiths and Ruin  By  cover art

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

By: Roseanne A. Brown
Narrated by: Jordan Cobb,A. J Beckles
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Publisher's Summary

An instant New York Times Best Seller!

The first in a gripping fantasy duology inspired by West-African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction - from debut author Roseanne A. Brown. This New York Times best seller is perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Renée Ahdieh, and Sabaa Tahir.

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 his younger sister, Nadia, as payment to enter 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 heart-pounding 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?

"Magic creates a centuries-long divide between peoples in this stunning debut novel inspired by North African and West-African folklore. An action-packed tale of injustice, magic, and romance, this novel immerses readers in a thrilling world and narrative reminiscent of Children of Blood and Bone." (Publishers Weekly, "An Anti-Racist Children's and YA Reading List")

Don't miss the second book in this epic duology, A Psalm of Storms and Silence!

©2020 Roseanne A. Brown (P)2020 HarperAudio

What listeners say about A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A truly unique and beautiful tale....

A whirlwind adventure tale about love, loss, anger and magic. I loved every moment of this unexpected, beautiful story Rosanne weaved for us.

Karina is already soaring to the top of my favorite characters list. I love her anger, I love her moral compass and I absolutely admire her strength. I truly cannot wait to see where the next book takes her. I can't wait to see her take back her kingdom. A true queen.

11 people found this helpful

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Slow

The story was kind of drawn out and I listened to the end of it on fast forward just wanting to be done.

11 people found this helpful

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No words

It's impossible to find the right words without spoiling some aspect of the story. It's just so good! The world building and the depths of the characters are fantastic, and the themes are refreshingly different than what've become tropes within the fantasy genre.

8 people found this helpful

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Terrible Narration, So-so story

Narration: this is a story that takes place in West Africa. The narrators don’t even try to pronounce words with an African accent. In fact some words they mispronounce. It comes across as inauthentic and a little insulting. Were there no African actors to narrate? Were there no actors that could pull off a Nigerian, Liberian or Ethiopian accent? The narrators do a poor job of distinguishing between characters. The reading is set up where the narrators alternate chapters. The problem with that is that sometimes characters cross chapters. So sometimes the princess sounds like a man! Sometimes it’s unclear which character is speaking! The male narrator reads too fast, you have to slow his voice down. As a sci-fi/ fantasy novel there is a lot of world building. In a too-fast narration you get lost.

Story: the writer takes way too long to build the story. You have to listen for a while before you get to the incident that kicks off the story. By then you struggle to maintain interest. The only thing that kept me listening to the end was the fact that I paid for the audible. The writer sometimes uses two to three names for the characters (the queen has three different names, one of the main characters has two. The villain has two to three) it’s just confusing. Also you get towards the end of the book and the solutions to the problems are explained too easily. There is no catharsis at the end off the book and at no point do you grow to like Karina one of the main characters. She spends most of the book pursuing a mission only to see the goal accomplished in an unexpected direction and her response? “oh that’s wrong.” With no real action towards the oppression in the kingdom, no real sense of personal responsibility to others except for when that person can help her. That’s not a hero. C’mon!

Maybe reading the book instead of listening solves the narration issue but there were some story and character development issues I couldn’t get over.

5 people found this helpful

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Kinda slow in the beginning

Overall the story was good.
a little slow in the beginning though. I had to start it over and over again just to fully understand everything.

5 people found this helpful

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Great story, beautiful performance!

This book was absolutely lovely! Especially 3 dimensional characters for a YA fantasy, world building that draws you in, and a story with twists and turns you always feel like you should have expected (the best kind). No fantasy world holds up to infinite scrutiny, but this is the kind that makes you feel like you don’t have to poke at it. In short, it’s beautifully crafted.

The performance is well suited to the story, with two different narrators (one for each limited omniscient viewpoint). The narrators carry the story well, and stay understated enough to leave room for the listener’s thoughts and interpretations. There are some distinctive voices, but none that feel out of place and no drastic tonal shifts that take the listener out of the story. They both were fantastic.

3 people found this helpful

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I like the concept

I like the concept. Before the two main characters knew each other promises are made. They each have their own stories yet they collide. Neither knowing the other's true story or purpose. In stead of an obvious and seemingly easy end game, it all goes up in the air. Decisions and actions no longer easy and sacrifices change. The end not so clear or easy.

I think if I read the book, rather than listened, I would have been more involved into the story and more connected. Not sure why it didn't always hold my interests. Narration wasn't horrible but it didn't bring it 100% alive either.

2 people found this helpful

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Great

My mother and I both enjoyed the book. I can’t wait for book 2. Thank you!

2 people found this helpful

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I wanted to like it! But the writing and reading--

The world could use more African-themed fantasy novels, so I was eager to like Roseanne A. Brown’s debut novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (2020). And the world building on one African-esque continent is fine. A thousand years ago, the oppressive Egyptian analogue Kennouan Empire was replaced by the Zirani Empire, which for 250 years has been occupying and exploiting the “backwards” Eshrani people. There are ballads about legendary figures like Bahia, the first sultana of Ziran, and her traitor husband the Faceless King. And a religion with a Great Mother and seven animal deities and their seven elements. And tangible or intangible magic and “grim folk” like wraiths. And a mix of African and fantasy animals, from zebras and lions to chipekwe and serpopards.

Blessedly, the narration is not first-person present tense, but third-person past, chapters alternating between two complementary teen protagonists, Malik, an impoverished Eshrani refugee, and Karina, a sad, over-protected Zirani princess. Malik has traveled across the desert with his older and younger sisters to the wealthy city-state Ziran, hoping to earn enough money there to send for his mother and grandmother. Ten years ago, Karina’s beloved father and big sister died in a fire, and as the only heir, she isn’t allowed to do anything dangerous, so, thinking that her mother hates her, she sneaks out at night with her trusty maid to best bards in song competitions in dirty downtown dives.

Like other YA teen heroes, Malik and Karina are separated from parental supervision, unappreciated by their families and communities, endowed with special gifts (Malik for stories, Karina for music, both for magic), and good looking (Malik with “tawny brown skin” and “night dark eyes,” Karina with dark brown skin and silver hair in coils). Oh, and they’re drawn to each other while being made to think they’ll have to kill each other!

There’s a Hunger Games vibe here. The week-long Solstasia festival held every fifty years when a comet appears above Ziran includes three challenges for seven champions representing the seven deities, losers being eliminated until one winner remains. Each champion has a support team, nice clothes, and fans who cheer for, bet on, and dress like them. In addition to having their patron deity preside over Zirani culture, the winner (even if it’s the sole female champion) will marry Princess Karina.

Brown tells a page turning story. There are neat scenes, like when Malik tells a folk tale about the trickster Hyena, when Karina and Malik find a forgotten necropolis full of animated slave corpses working in time-worn rags, and when Karina serves “poisoned” tea to some uppity viziers. Similes are apt, like “Grinning a grin that would put a hyena’s to shame.” There’s vivid description, like “Hidden in a chasm longer than the tallest tower in Ksar Alahari was a city that glittered like a gold gash against the dark stone.” And Brown introduces relevant issues like immigrants, discrimination, and war profiteering. (The novel’s not about race, as Zirani and Eshrani are only told apart by accent and manners.)

Unfortunately, Brown’s writing ejected me from her story.

Plot contrivance abounds, from the minor (Malik letting his verboten mobile magic tattoo appear anywhere on his body instead of always safely hiding it on the bottom of his foot) to the major (Karina deciding to use a forbidden necromantic rite from the dread Kennouan Empire to resurrect her mother, though it requires cutting out the heart of whoever marries her). Action scenes don’t feel real, as when twelve fierce bush dogs let a champion kill them one by one instead of attacking him all at once.

The main characters are by turns unconvincing or unappealing, prone to panic attacks (Malik), temper tantrums (Karina), and self-castigations, like, “Failure. Failure. Failure” (Karina), and “Let Driss beat him to death. He deserved it” (Malik). One moment Karina is wailing, “This is all my fault,” the next vowing, “This ends tonight.” One moment fretting, “She was a fool to ever have thought he [Malik] had feelings for her,” the next preening, “If she were Tunde, she'd be in love with herself too.” Malik, who has no romantic experience and is cripplingly shy, says to a rival, “Me talking to her isn't a problem, right? I mean, since the two of you aren't involved anymore.” (The de rigueur YA love triangle isn’t compelling.)

Brown turns the emotional volume up too high, as when “true terror filled Karina’s veins” before she faces her estranged mother. Teens are histrionic and volatile, but Malik and Karina’s exaggerated and cliched emotions deafened and distanced me. Hearts hammer, millions of questions race through minds, a door takes two lifetimes to open. “Fear screamed at Malik.” “He wanted to curl up into a ball and hide.” “Karina's heart dropped down to her toes.” “Her rage was a living creature beyond her control.” And so on. Brown even uses “literally” nine times to authenticate excessive emotions, e.g., “Karina would have quite literally bitten anyone else for laying a finger on her without permission,” and “Malik was quite literally running in circles.”

Finally, the dialogue is too formally stilted (e.g., “I am humbled by your hospitality,” and “On the contrary, I think it is in my own best interest to see how much of a ransom Haissa Sarahel is willing to pay for her only daughter”) or too casually American (e.g., “I'm good,” “Show your love to the newest Life champion of Solstasia,” “What the hell is going on?” “You owe me big time, Princess,” and “Come on you guys… We have a princess to find”). Is this an African folktale fantasy or a Disney movie?

The male and female audiobook readers who read the alternating chapters of Malik (A. J. Beckles) and Karina (Jordan Cobb) over-dramatize the already febrile text. Worse, it’s jarring when Beckles reads the speech of characters in the Malik chapters who also speak in the Karina chapters read by Cobb, because the same characters’ voices sound so different. Beckles’ Karina is more high-pitched and less cool than Cobb’s, Cobb’s vengeful spirit Idir less malevolent and more cartoonish than Beckles’. Cobb speaks American English for all Zirani like Karina—except for Commander Hamidou, who has an African accent. Maybe Malik should have an African accent, because his Eshrani accent threatens to reveal his origin, but even to his sister he only speaks American English like Karina. And then Cobb gives a pseudo-British accent to an Eshrani servant! The readers don’t enhance the story.

I was impressed by some cool surprises and intense developments in the climax, wherein the “evil” nemeses reveal interesting motivations, unlike generic dark lords. However, I spent most of my time with the novel listing flaws with bitter relish and can’t imagine going on to the sequel to see how Malik, Karina, and Ziran grow.

1 person found this helpful

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An almost love, an almost death and a loose magic

I enjoyed this story.
I want to see where is goes next.
I want more details around the magic system.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Avid Reader
  • 06-17-20

Great story marred somewhat by a US accent

In looking for stories featuring diverse characters NOT being oppressed or abused by white populations, this was a welcome find. The writing is rich enough to be studied and the content appropriate for middle teens.
As I wanted a book to share with my kids and students showing non-white heroes, it was disappointing to hear the American accent. If I compare it to the narration of Children of Blood and Bone, the story is better but I really thought the narration with the African accent helped me visualise the characters more effectively. Weirdly, with this book, I often found myself imagining white characters and had to consciously remind myself this is supposed to be set in West Africa (or at least that's where the intertwining mythologies come from).
I found the characters convincing, unlike CoB&B, and the avoidance of 'instalove' made the romance more complex and believable.
This is a book I will definitely add to my classroom library and encourage others to explore. I'm really looking forward to the next installation.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-10-20

Enjoyed it

My first foray into YA fantasy and I have to admitI quite enjoyed it, looking forward to the next one.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Eclectic Taste
  • 07-13-20

Brilliant story

This story keeps you wanting to see what happens next. The characters are well developed and you feel a connection with them. The two people performing the book help to bring those characters alive. I can’t wait for the next one.

1 person found this helpful

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  • CM
  • 05-01-22

Told Well, More Suspense Needed.

It took a few chapters to get into this. Although this book was a good story, I would like to set more twists & turns in these books. It was very predictable.

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  • Jade
  • 08-30-20

Loved it!

Loved this book! The narrators were wonderful and engaging, and the story was intriguing and heartbreaking and aaaaaa. Very much looking forward to the second book and finding out where the characters go from here.

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  • Jordyn Hall
  • 01-17-21

Amazing!

This narration was done amazing! i loved ths story. The ending made me wanting more. The narrators I cannnot stress how good they were . They made me feel as if I was in zerron myself. hoping they keep the same two on for book 2 .