A song of Wraiths and Ruin is inspired by West African folklore and follows a princess and a refugee as they try to save their families.
When author Roseanne A. Brown emailed me to ask if we’d feature the cover reveal to her novel A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, she described herself as “a young adult and middle grade SFF author who writes books for and about Black girls going on the kinds of fantastical adventures we have historically been denied in literature.”
Needless to say I was hooked from the start — but it got even better from there.
Pitched as “What if Aladdin and Jasmine had to kill each other?”, Brown also said the book contained themes of inter-generational trauma, mental health in the Black community, the unfair slutshaming of Black girls, and how far each of us is willing to go for the people we love.
I knew I was sold before I ever saw the cover, but if that hadn’t won me over, then the strikingly beautiful woman on the front of the book, clad in a flowing emerald dress, would have absolutely done the trick.
What I’m trying to say is that A Song of Wraiths and Ruin seems to be exactly the kind of book that I, my fellow book reviewers, and Hypable’s audience won’t be able to get enough of.
Here’s the ‘Song of Wraiths and Ruin’ cover reveal
Cover artist: Tawny Chatmon
Model: Tania Toussaint
I wasn’t joking about this cover reveal! I love the way you immediately zero in on the woman’s face and the ornate design behind her head. Your gaze flows down her dress as it billows out to the side, somehow radiating delicacy and strength in the same turn.
The title on the bottom half of the cover conveys the same sort of feeling — simultaneously ornate and sturdy. The greens, golds, and silvers complement each other wonderfully, providing us with a memorable book design that promises to be just as good on the inside as it is on the outside.
Want proof? Keep reading.
‘A Song of Wraiths and Ruin’ exclusive excerpt
“My siblings, the hour of the comet’s arrival approaches!” cried the griot. “As the old era draws its last breaths and the new era lurks on the horizon, please allow me, the humble Nyeni, to entertain you for a little while longer. Our next tale is the story of the first Solstasia, and it begins on a night not unlike tonight when Bahia Alahari stood on these very sands dreaming of a world free of the pharaoh’s rule . . .”
The yearning was back with a vengeance, pulling at Malik to sit at Nyeni’s feet and drink in her tale. This wasn’t even his people’s history, and yet Malik could have recited by heart the tale of how Bahia Alahari had destroyed the Kennouan Empire, full of all the romance, action, and heartbreak all the best epics had.
However, Malik had never heard the Solstasia tale the way Nyeni told it. The story was her tapestry, and each word added a new thread to the image. When this griot spoke, it was almost as if magic had truly existed, curling through the centuries to gather in their outstretched hands.
“. . . And so, Bahia went to Hyena for aid, for it is known that Hyena always keeps her promises.”
Nyeni curled her hands into claws and stretched her mouth wide to mimic the famed trickster.
“Hyena told Bahia, ‘If you wish to receive my aid, you must first answer this riddle: “My wife and I live in the same house. She visits my room whenever she wishes, but when I enter hers, she is never there. Who am I, and who is my wife?” ’ . . . What’s the answer, my siblings? Hyena won’t help you without it.”
The trick to this story was that the riddle changed with each telling. The crowd yelled out a flurry of answers, each more ridiculous than the last.
“A horse and a mule!”
“A mortar and a pestle!”
“Me and my husband!”
Nyeni cackled. “Is there no one among you who can solve this puzzle?”
“It’s the sun and the moon,” Malik muttered absentmindedly, most of his attention still on finding a way into Ziran. He’d always had a particular skill for riddles, and this was one of the easier ones he’d heard. “You can see the moon during the day, but the sun is never visible at night.”
Nadia’s hand shot into the air, and Malik was too slow to stop her from shouting out, “The sun and the moon!”
Malik clapped a hand over Nadia’s mouth just as Nyeni said, “Correct!”
Every muscle in Malik’s body tensed. The griot continued on with her tale, and Malik sighed, his pulse still racing.
“You stole my answer, you little cheat!” Nadia stuck her tongue out at him, and he shook his head. Malik looked over at Leila, who gave him a tired smile.
“We’re going to be all right,” she said, and for the first time in a long time, Malik believed her.
“We always are.”
“. . . and that, my siblings, is the tale of the first Solstasia!”
Shouts and applause rang through the air. Disappointed that the story had ended so soon, Malik rose to his feet, dusting sand off him and Nadia. Leila stood as well with a stretch. Just as the siblings turned toward the small cluster of caravans leaving Ziran, Nyeni yelled, “But wait! Before we disperse, I would like to call forward the young woman who solved today’s riddle. Child, come!”
Nadia’s eyes glinted brighter than stars. She twisted out of Malik’s grasp and charged to the front of the crowd, where the griot welcomed her with a wide grin. The beads woven through Nyeni’s braids clicked together as she knelt down to Nadia’s eye level.
“To thank you for helping with my story today, I will grant you one wish—anything you want.”
“Anything?” asked Nadia, her mouth falling open.
“No, thank you—I mean, thank you, but we’re fine,” interjected Leila, running to Nadia’s side. Malik followed and tried to ignore the shivers crawling over his skin as the crowd stared at him and his sisters. There was something odd about this griot, as though he were looking at her through a piece of colored glass. Now they were close enough to see the woman’s hair was pulled into a multitude of micro braids that had been threaded through with strands of rainbow color, and throughout her tattoos were recurring motifs of the seven patron deities.
“Anything at all,” promised Nyeni.
“Nadia, let’s go,” commanded Leila, who was already beginning to turn away when Nadia blurted out, “I want to go to Ziran!”
The griot’s lips curled into a smile that showed too many teeth. “Then you shall have your wish!”
Nyeni looked Malik straight in the eye. So quickly he might have imagined it, her eyes turned a vibrant bright blue, the color of a too-hot flame.
Then a roar thundered through the air.
The chipekwe that had been sleeping so peacefully just seconds before reared back, pulling its lead out of the hands of its shocked handler. Several soldiers rushed forward to placate the beast, but it simply crushed them underfoot, no more bothered than a human stepping on an ant.
The chipekwe lowered its plated head, and with another roar, it barreled straight into the Western Gate. A spiderweb of cracks splintered the dark wood, sending the people below ducking for cover. On second impact, a massive hole tore through the center of the gate, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop the chipekwe from charging into the newly open path to Ziran.
For several tense seconds, nobody moved.
And then the stampede began.
The refugees and travelers and all the others who had been turned away from the city burst through its walls with the intensity of a typhoon. The crowd was too massive for the size of the street the gate opened into, and the onslaught quickly devolved into trampling and shoving as everyone fought to make it inside.
With no time to think, Malik picked up Nadia and ran alongside the frantic flow of the crowd. A man beside them fell to the ground and grabbed for Malik’s ankle, nearly pulling Malik and Nadia down with him. Malik kicked at the man’s face, nausea rising in his stomach at the blood that welled up beneath his foot, but still he ran.
“Leila!” Malik yelled, but there were no signs of his older sister within the crush of people. “Leila!”
Urgent drumbeats pealed out, summoning more soldiers to the area, and the frenzy pumped energy into Malik’s travel-fatigued muscles. Moving away from the fury of the drums, he swung a hard right and burst into Jehiza Square.
At least, Malik assumed it was Jehiza Square. Of all the stories Nana had told him about Ziran, only one place in the city was as chaotic as the area they had now entered.
An enormous cloth lion puppet manned by a troupe of performers roared in Malik’s face, and he careened backward, nearly crashing into a stand frying fragrant balls of nutmeg dough. From somewhere to his left, a donkey brayed, and a team of fire dancers tossed their torches into the air, the embers bright against the purpling sky.
In the center of the square, a massive pile composed of all sorts of everyday items—bits of broken chairs, wagon wheels, cracked stones, rusted jewelry, dented buckets, and so much more—gazed over the festivities like a watchful sentry. The one-winged gryphon of Ksar Alahari flew from every surface, its beak open in a triumphant scream.
“Where are you going, little brother?” called a man with a dancing monkey on a chain as Malik raced by. “Stay and play with us!”
Malik turned on his heel, nearly crashing into a sheep pen and earning a string of curses from its furious shepherd. They flew from the pen only to get pulled into a large dance circle, at the center of which a performer sporting a stone mask sang a throaty prayer to the ancestors and the Great Mother thanking them for the festival about to occur.
Drums boomed and flutes trilled. Sweat and smoke and roasting meat and sweet saffron and overripe fruit filled the air, muddling all of Malik’s senses. The light from the lanterns bathed every face in shadows until he could hardly tell one figure from the next as they pushed and pulled him and Nadia along with the frantic flow of the celebration.
It was just like Nana had described.
It was a nightmare.
About ‘A Song of Wraiths and Ruin’
The first in an immersive 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. 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 Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into 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?
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown hits store shelves on June 2, 2020. You can pre-order it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and Book Depository, or you can add it to your Goodreads list.