Title: The Brilliant Death
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Publication Date: October 30, 2018
*I received this ARC as part of Miss Print’s ARC Adoption Program. Thank you so much, Miss Print!*
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.
Things I Liked:
➳ The setting – As soon as I heard that this book was set in 19th century Italy, I knew I had to read it. I loved the bits of culture that were incorporated. I also loved that this setting provided the perfect backdrop for mafia families, which is something I’ve never read about before and found to be very interesting.
➳ The family dynamics – Speaking of mafia families, I enjoyed reading about the relationships between the DiSangros. Some of them, such as the one between Teo and her step-mother, were very complex. Also, I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve read about a character who is so dedicated to their family. Teo really respects her father and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect him and the rest of the DiSangro line. Another interesting aspect was the difference between her relationships with her two brothers, one whom is very competitive and cruel and one whom is very caring and intellectual.
➳ The representation – There is a lot of diversity in The Brilliant Death. In particular, Teo is queer and her love interest, Cielo, is genderfluid. Cielo is able to easily switch between male and female and they give Teo hope for expressing her own identity as she feels that she has never fit the gender norms set for girls.
➳ The magic – From the start, the magic was captivating. In the first chapter, Teo turns a man who was dishonest with her father into a music box… literally. I loved learning about all of the magical abilities that the characters have.
Things I Disliked:
➳ The writing – I thought the concept of this story was amazing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed by the execution. The writing felt very immature to me and I think it would be better suited for younger YA readers. Of course, I didn’t let this affect my rating because there’s nothing wrong with a book being more suitable for a younger age. However, right now it seems to appeal to older YA readers which is misleading and I think it should be aimed towards the younger age group.
➳ All of the locations and families were a bit confusing – Teo talks a lot about the towns surrounding the DiSangro lands. There’s also a lot of mention of the other ruling families. All of the names and places were hard to keep separate in my head, especially at the beginning of the novel.
➳ I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped to – Overall, I gave this book 3 stars because it just didn’t hold my attention or excite me. I often found that I was forcing myself to pick it back up. Perhaps I let my expectations get too high, but I feel that while the story had an interesting, fun concept, it ultimately just wasn’t for me.
Have you read this book? Are you planning to? What books have you read that have very unique premises?