Content warning: physical and emotional abuse, mass violence, suicidal ideation
World building takes vision, strong world building is apparent when the next book in a series reveals fresh nuance to the world’s lore. In A Psalm of Storms and Silence, Roseanne A. Brown has carefully crafted Sonande, a land full of historical injustice whose weight challenges the budding love between her spiritually-crossed protagonists.
As the second and final installment of the A Song of Wraiths and Ruin series, readers should be well acquainted with anxious griot illusionist Malik and curious wind witch Princess Karina—especially because we pick up with each character not long after we left them in ASOWAR. Princess Karina has found herself in one of the most unlikely of alliances with a former suitor in the competition to win her hand in the Solstasia (the focal point of book one). They are joined by the young magic—or nkra—sensitive mage that befriended Karina when she most questioned her abilities and how they had bearing in the loss of her family. In a case of the lost leading the lost, they navigate their way to finding Karina an armed force that will help Karina retake the kingdom she lost through betrayal in A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. But as Karina runs toward a hopeful shelter, we also find that she is running away from two people whose very existence leaves her with more questions than she has the courage to bear. Unfortunately for her, one of those people, Malik, appears to her in her dreams regardless of how far she ventures. With her former guards searching for her posted throughout the country and Sonande citizens in states of unrest everywhere she travels, Karina is forced to brave her emotional consternation surrounding her family, magical abilities, royal responsibility, and love life sooner rather than later.
Malik, on the other hand, has gained everything he was ever supposed to want in the wake of Karina’s departure from the seat of the kingdom, Ziran. He and his sisters have stable and well-appointed housing within the palace at the behest of their new host, who has also agreed to train Malik in their shared, lost, magical arts. This training couldn’t come at a better time, as Malik continues to hold the centuries-old magical deity that held his younger sister hostage in a spirit world to blackmail Malik into seizing control of the kingdom within the confines of his mind. Ironically, it is this malicious deity who questions Malik’s new benefactor’s motives after he continues to abuse Malik under the guise of ‘training.’ Not even Malik’s trustworthy and loyal older sister can dissuade him from seeing his mentor in a good light until Malik is forced to take on tasks that counter his morals.
A Psalm of Storms and Silence is chock full not only of quality plot and intrigue but also a sense of adventure and discovery that still feels fresh in a world where new YA stories centered on these very themes are released every week. I personally enjoyed this book more than the first and would recommend it to those who appreciate the author’s voice and want to experience it disentangled from the competition framework. It’s well worth the addition to your TBR.