The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.
All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.
Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.
Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.
Capetta weaves together a story rich with family history, suppressed magic, and queer romance. Teodora is complex, but quietly so, until she meets Cielo, who introduces her to a new way of thinking about herself and what her magic can do. Capetta’s writing is clear and she keeps the reader constantly aware of correct pronouns to address the genderfluid Cielo. Her prologue and first chapter grab the reader right away as we begin to understand what Teodora’s life is like as the second daughter of a powerful mafia family and as she begins to use her magic as a means of protecting her family’s power. As Teodora immerses herself more into a world she did not know existed, she realizes the power of familial and romantic love. The world is beautifully constructed and readers will delight in the hidden places Teodora must discover. This book is a well-thought out romance featuring two nonbinary characters with enough action and excitement to keep the pages turning.
Who would you recommend this book to?
Readers who love to read fast paced action fantasy with characters who are not only motivated by revenge, but are willing to do (or become) whatever it takes to protect those they love.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy
Adeyemi has written the most exciting young adult fantasy novel in several years. This unputdownable novel takes readers on a truly engaging and harrowing journey. Adeyemi has seeped her novel full of myth and magic and the world comes alive for the reader from the first few pages. The history of the world and the magic system feels thoroughly researched and executed. Following the story of four young people, all of whom have diversified motivations and points of view, readers will embark on the journey of a lifetime to restore magic back to Orisha before it is too late, and their magic vanishes forever. While the narrative is original, excellently paced, and engaging enough on its own, this novel is also Adeyemi’s response to several important social justice issues. Racism, oppression, and prejudice fuel some characters’ motivations and they must wrestle with the ramifications of their hatred. The characters, world building, and complicated points of view make this one of the best fantasy novels written for teens in a long time.
Who would you recommend this book to?
Fans of Black Panther, readers who love myth, romance, action, complex magic systems, and characters who have complicated and diversified points of view.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Winner: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Children of Blood and Bone won this round for me because the world building was so carefully and exquisitely done. The characters were realistic and complicated in their own ways. The social issues took center stage without feeling too “preachy” and this book was a joy to read. I was impressed by the time the author took to really build this world and the people who inhabit it.
A lover of literature, Beth VanCurine has a BS in English Education from Olivet Nazarene University, a MSLIS from the University of Illinois, and an MA aim English Literature from Northwestern University. Beth works as a researcher remotely and has recently started working at the Baraboo Public Library. She enjoys reading, traveling, and analyzing movies.