Hi, everyone, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta! I’m so excited to share my thoughts on this gem of a fantasy book with you all.
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on October 30, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Goodreads • Book Depository
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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
If you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you probably know by now that reviews of fantasy books from me are few and far between these days. As my reading tastes have changed over the past couple years, I’ve slowly gravitated away from fantasy, and it takes a special book to make me want to pick up the genre. The Brilliant Death was that kind of book. I fell in love with Amy Rose Capetta’s writing after reading Echo After Echo last year and was eagerly anticipating this follow-up, and it did not disappoint.
In The Brilliant Death, we follow Teodora, the daughter of one of the most powerful mafia families in Vinalia. However, not even her father knows of her magical abilities– which she has been using for years to quietly take down the Di Sangro family’s enemies. The book begins with Teo’s father, along with all of the other heads of the Five Families who hold power in Vinalia, being poisoned by the land’s new ruler, the Capo. Teo sets off for the capital in search of an antidote for her father and of some answers as to what the heck is happening in Vinalia.
I was utterly enchanted by the world of The Brilliant Death. The setting is perfectly described, and it’s easy to see the Italian influence in the descriptions of the art, the food, the politics, the church, and, of course, in the magic. The magic system is one of the most unique ones I’ve ever read; it involves people called streghe (singular: strega… which actually means “witch” in Italian!) who have specific magical abilities. Not all of them have the same ability, but the magic functions in a similar way no matter what form it takes. Our main character, for example, can change other people into objects. We also learn, along with Teo, that when a strega dies, their abilities transfer to others. This has led to a rise in streghe killing other streghe in order to gain more power. The magic almost felt like a character in and of itself; it was always present and even spoke at times. It was well-crafted and made sense while still feeling whimsical.
Also, I tend to gravitate toward and enjoy political fantasies, and The Brilliant Death blended magic and politics perfectly. There’s lots of scheming, plots, and intrigue that keep you on your toes the entire book. It also served to make the world feel all the more atmospheric, and the politics definitely upped the stakes of the story. There’s a lot of discussion on how trapped and stifled Teo feels as a daughter in a world that favors sons. She has to contend with these attitudes coming from both her family (specifically her father and brothers) as well as from the outside world. The men in Teo’s life constantly underestimate her, and, well, that never works out too well for them in the end. The Brilliant Death challenges the cishetero patriarchy at every turn, and I was here for it.
Which brings me to my other favorite part… the love interest!!! Cielo, another strega who has the ability to change their own form, becomes Teo’s magic tutor, and the two have to manage their budding romance with, you know, saving the world. Cielo is a genderfluid strega who often shifts forms and uses both he/him and she/her pronouns throughout the novel. I’m 100% in love with them, tbh. They’re exactly the kind of witty love interest I think readers will swoon over. I loved reading their interactions with Teo! Their romance made my heart so happy. Also, I thought the way gender was explored in The Brilliant Death was wonderful– I’m a cis woman, so take my opinions with a grain of salt, but I thought the discussion was excellent.
As always, Amy Rose Capetta’s stunning prose is another standout element of this book. Her writing is so lyrical and is perfectly suited to this queer, magical fantasy story.
Overall, if you’re looking for a unique YA fantasy read this fall, I can’t recommend The Brilliant Death highly enough! Whether you’re a seasoned or skeptical reader of fantasy, I think this story will enchant pretty much everyone.
follow the tour!
October 23 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Review
October 24 – Read Forevermore – Creative Instagram Picture
October 25 – Arctic Books – Playlist
October 26 – Reading with Lori – Moodboard
October 29 – @kculver88 – Review + Creative Instagram Picture
October 30 – The Bookish Baker – Creative + Review
October 31 – The Book Prophet – Listicle + Book Aesthetic
November 1 – Novel Ink – Review
November 2 – Novel Novice – Styled by Books: Outfit
November 5 – BookCrushin – Creative Instagram Picture + Creative Blog Post
November 6 – Bursting with Books – Listicle + Review
November 7 – Glimpses of My Books – Review + Creative Instagram Picture
November 8 – NYC Book Girl – Creative Instagram Picture
November 9 – Tinted Prose Reviews – Review + Creative Instagram Picture
Have you read The Brilliant Death? If so, let’s discuss! If not, do you plan to read it?