October 30, 2018

Review: The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

The Brilliant Death
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers


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.

The Brilliant Death is a thrilling YA fantasy that revolves around magic and much more important topics - like being yourself, no matter who or what that might be. This is kind of a hard book for me to review because there's so much going through my mind about it. There are layers to the story, which is a big reason why I enjoyed it. On the surface, the story is about magic in a place that has turned against it. The setting seemed to reflect on Italy and a lot of the words felt Italian to me. I really liked that part of it. It was different than other fantasies where it feels like everything happens in deserts or weird places that are hard to see in your mind. This was easy to bring to life for me by the author's vivid imagery and detailed descriptions. It felt like I was right beside Teo the entire time and experienced everything alongside her. The main plot was about Teo's father being poisoned, along with the other four major families rulers in an attempt to bring about a new country that was based on unity and allegiance. Teo is a strega (a person with magical abilities) and has used her gifts to help protect her family for most of her life. I liked the way Teo describes her magic - how it speaks to her, how it feels when she uses it, and other interesting things. I found that to be utterly intriguing and I wanted to know everything I could about the strega and their different types of magic.

Teo was a fantastic main character. She was fierce, determined, loyal and devoted to her family, smart, and an overall powerful woman. She has magic, but has only known how to use it in one way - to change people or things into other things - but she has to figure out a way to physically change herself into a boy in order to face the leader of the country. Enter Cielo, whose character is hard for me to describe. Mischievous, smart, good at magic, and also fierce and determined to find out what's going on with the missing streghe in the country and what happened to his mother years ago. Cielo's character is completely fluid - he/she can transform into anything including other genders, animals, and even weather. I found that magic to be fascinating and I loved learning about it. I do feel that the author put a lot of emphasis on Cielo changing back and forth between female and male. Which also made the story have a element of LGBTQ, which is fine and part of the more important layer of the novel about being who you truly are and accepting yourself for who that is. I got that message loud and clear from both Teo and Cielo, their feelings for one another and their relationship as it changed and grew - but it just felt a little forced how they kept changing genders. That's the only issue I personally had with the story - and it's only my opinion and doesn't reflect back on the writing or the author in any way. I'm sure other readers won't find an issue with this, but I wanted to note it because it did bother me a bit just because it seemed overused to prove a certain point. Overall, this was a great book and I definitely recommend it to fans of the genre as well as readers looking for diverse characters and diverse stories that stand out from the rest.

*A huge thanks to Bookish First for hosting the giveaway where I was able to win a copy of the book.*


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