DNF @ p.130
I originally wasn't going to rate this book, since it was a debut and I didn't particularly care for the writing style, but people keep coming onto this review and leaving me rude comments saying that apparently you aren't allowed to write (non-rated) reviews for books you haven't read... so while I wait for my copy to renew again from the library, and since I did read almost a quarter of it, I will post my (rated) review with my thoughts so far, and will update if they change once I try to read it again and give it a second shot.
A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN is the first in a fantasy duology with Black characters, "in a world inspired by West African folklore." Our hero and heroine are Malik and Karina. Karina is a princess whose mother has just been assassinated and whose court is in the midst of political upheaval. Malik is poor and part of a discriminated-against cultural minority, and he and his sisters end up in a Jareth from Labyrinth-type situation with one of the gods when his younger sister accidentally makes a bargain and the only way to save her is to, you guessed it, assassinate the princess Karina.
There isn't anything objectively wrong with this book but I had a lot of trouble getting into it and when I stalled at page 130, I ended up returning it to the library for the next person. I was told that this was inspired by Aladdin and I can sort of see that; Malik is soft (in a good way) and cares for his sisters, and he wants freedom from the life that consistently beats him and his family down. Likewise, Karina is a princess who feels like she's in a gilded cage, and longs for freedom from her own, different brand of oppression. Plus, they're enemies-to-lovers, and there's a gladiatorial element, too. I loved the premise and I even liked what the author was trying to do with the characters. It just has the same sort of bland, plodding story-telling that countless other young adult fantasy books of this type has, which is made evident by its BLANK OF BLANK AND BLANK formatted title. Far too many YA fantasy novels have this bland, inoffensive mode of story-telling-- and not inoffensive in, "wow, there's nothing un-PC in this book, I am so angry!" but inoffensive as in, the book doesn't really take a lot of risks and plays everything very safe by sticking to a formula that feels very linear and predictable. I've had similar complaints about Sarah J. Maas's and Renee Ahdieh's work, and while I did enjoy Roseanne A. Brown's better than theirs, it still felt tedious to get through. It's worth pointing out that I'm not a teen, and I am not Black, and I feel like a lot of teens, and especially Black teens, will enjoy this book, because seeing yourself reflected in the narrative is a privilege that not all of us can enjoy. I just really couldn't get into it, and I'm going to try again, and if I feel like it improves upon a second read, I will adjust my rating and post an update to my review reflecting that.
2 out of 5 stars