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  • Robert C. Kukla

A Huge Disappointment: 'The Brilliant Death' by Amy Rose Capetta

I really wanted to love this because Amy Rose Capetta was one of the coauthors of an all time favorite series of mine, but after pushing through, I finished the book feeling very disappointed.

According to the book description, "Teodora di Sangro is used to hiding her magical ability to transform enemies into music boxes and mirrors. Nobody knows she’s a strega —and she aims to keep it that way. Then she meets Cielo—and everything changes."

A strega, is the Italian word for a witch, and in the book, someone who can switch outward form as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Cielo shows Teodora what her life could be like if she masters the power she’s been keeping secret. And not a moment too soon: the ruler of Vinalia has poisoned the patriarchs of the country’s five controlling families, including Teodora’s father, and demands that each family send a son to the palace.

If she wants to save her family, Teodora must travel to the capital—not disguised as a boy, but transformed into one. But the road to the capital, and to bridling her powers, is full of enemies and complications, including the one she least expects: falling in love.

I thought Cielo was a really interesting character and the way the book uses their shape shifting ability to explore gender fluidity was very creative.

I also thought the magic system as a whole was fun to read, but what the book suffers from is what most high fantasy stories suffer from in my opinion, and that is endless descriptions that meander and don’t provide anything substantial to the story. I don’t mind descriptions in fantasy because I do feel that they add some needed world building to understand the world we are reading about.

However, I feel like the world building should be engaging and flow seamlessly with the rest of the story. In The Brilliant Death, the world building doesn’t feel cohesive with the story and is a tedious chore to read through just to get to the interesting bits.

Overall, while this story has its good moments, those few moments aren’t enough to make me enjoy it fully because when I read for recreation, I don’t want to feel like the book is a chore. And that’s how the majority of this story made me feel.

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