Series: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #2
Karina lost everything after a violent coup left her without her kingdom or her throne. Now the most wanted person in Sonande, her only hope of reclaiming what is rightfully hers lies in a divine power hidden in the long-lost city of her ancestors.
Meanwhile, the resurrection of Karina’s sister has spiraled the world into chaos, with disaster after disaster threatening the hard-won peace Malik has found as Farid’s apprentice. When they discover that Karina herself is the key to restoring balance, Malik must use his magic to lure her back to their side. But how do you regain the trust of someone you once tried to kill?
As the fabric holding Sonande together begins to tear, Malik and Karina once again find themselves torn between their duties and their desires. And when the fate of everything hangs on a single, horrifying choice, they each must decide what they value most—a power that could transform the world, or a love that could transform their lives.
TW: grooming, depression/thoughts of suicide, anxiety, self mutilation
A Psalm of Storms and Silence picks up right where its predecessor left off with Karina out of her throne and Malik feeling betrayed. But where the first book was all fire and plot with the Solstasia challenges, this second focused very much on Malik and Karina’s characters.
Split into dual POVs like book 1, most of the book has Malik and Karina separated in their respective corners of the world. Karina is on the run while Malik is apprenticed to Farid back in her home kingdom, Ziran. I have nothing against character-driven stories. Some of my favorite books this year are in fact character-driven, particularly contemporaries. But let’s be honest, nothing much happens in this book.
It was such a wasted opportunity to explore the other areas of the world. Karina was going to find allies from another ethnic group living in a different part of the world but changes her mind. So we never get to meet them. We also never really get to explore Malik’s hometown or region much in this book either, the Eshrans that were so looked down upon by the elite Zirani.
We’re mostly stuck inside Malik’s head full of anxiety and thoughts of his self worth. While I understand how his tough upbringing played into his adulthood self-image and confidence, we really don’t see him overcoming this during the events of this book. It can be quite overwhelming, and that’s even for someone who doesn’t have this particular trigger.
Karina’s side of the story isn’t much better. When she’s not 100% focused on a way to escape her potential role in saving the world, her character just feels very one-dimensional. Yes, her attitude and perspective changed a little over the course of events but I didn’t feel like she had too many layers to her. She went from being selfish to considering the selfless option, but only due to extraneous circumstances. Oh, and don’t get me started on her powers. She fits the trope of Super Powerful Protagonist Who Miraculously Learns to Control It After a Few Lessons. From the girl who was afraid to unleash her powers ‘cause she killed her father and sister by accident as a kid to using it in battle so soon after training just doesn’t make sense to me.
The romance also felt lackluster. I know enemies to lovers is a very attractive trope but I don’t think it was handled well here. There’s some level of attraction between them yet it felt more like we’re told they have such undeniable feelings for their enemy than actual chemistry. Plus, they only despise each other because of miscommunication and revealed truths at the end of book 1.
Then we have the villain of the story: creepy Farid and his sordid past with Hanane, Karina’s older sister. There’s absolutely nothing good about him. He’s the true kind of evil villain character. You can either really like that in a story or absolutely hate it because you want more dimension in them. I personally just hated the creepiness in his possessive actions towards Hanane, and his utter lack of true decency for anyone else. I do think Brown did her best to portray this obviously sensitive topic in the best way possible, with respect to those who have experienced such horrors. But I will warn that it was still a little uncomfortable at times reading their interactions.
So where’s the redemption in the story? I really enjoyed the secondary characters. Brown even fit in a non-binary character here which was interesting in YA fantasy as I haven’t come across that very often. There was representation present in these characters and that was refreshing. However, we don’t get to spend much time with any of these characters for long so it’s hard to feel super emotionally connected with any of them.
I still very much enjoyed the bits of folklore scattered in this book, but it’s noticeably less than its predecessor which made it so lovely to begin with. As I mentioned, a bit of a wasted opportunity.
The ending was really the only saving grace to this book. I just about gave up at 75% of the book but I’m glad I stuck it through. Obviously without giving much away, I will say that it’s super open ended to leave for us readers to imagine. It isn’t a tearjerker ending in my opinion, but much is left for us to interpret and decide. I don’t always love these endings, but it felt fitting here, especially with everything we came to know of Malik and Karina in this book.
That being said, would I recommend this book? If you absolutely fell in love with book 1 like I did, I mean, it’s nice for closure but I don’t know if it’ll satisfy. If you haven’t started this series yet, it’s up to you because I think the first book has a lot to offer for representation and West African folklore in YA fantasy but the ending to this duology may not live up to those standards.
A Psalm of Storm and Silence falls short of its plot-driven, beautifully crafted folklore predecessor, instead focusing on our two leads and their own inner demons. While this character-driven sequel under-delivers on additional world building and emotional connection to other secondary characters, it does continue to showcase representation with a non-binary character and bits of West African folklore. Personally, only the “epilogue” part of the story really stood out with its open interpretation. Otherwise, with much disappointment, I can’t say this met the high standards the first book set out and I almost DNF’d it.