A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
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West African folklore powers lively fantasy debut.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Uses West African mythology and legend to tell its story.

Positive Messages

The bonds of family are especially strong. If someone makes a deal that's too good to be true, it probably is.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Malik and Karina are both compelling characters. They're impulsive, resourceful, and brave. Malik has magical powers; Karina is a strong fighter. Each understands that they will have to make sacrifices to save the ones they love.


There are a handful of violent scenes, mostly involving swordplay and magic. A villain is thrown off a roof.


Karina and Malik strike a few romantic sparks, but she marries someone else, waking up in bed with him (no details given).


Infrequent use of words including "damn," "hell," and "rat piss."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Karina and Malik drink to excess a couple of times.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a fantasy novel based on West African mythology written by debut novelist Roseanne A. Brown. The narrative focuses on two teens -- a princess named Karina and a street boy named Malik -- who make supernatural agreements in the hope of restoring their families. Swearing isn't frequent and is rarely harsher than "damn," "hell," or "rat piss." There are a few scenes of violence, including dark magic and swordplay. A villain is also thrown off a roof. Karina wakes up in bed beside her new husband, but no explicit details are given. Karina gets sick drinking wine. Malik also drinks to excess.

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What's the story?

As A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN opens, Princess Karina wants to leave her city for good during the festival of Solstasia, but she's physically restrained by a magical barrier. When her mother the Sultana is assassinated, Karina plans to resurrect her through dark magic and then escape the city. Meanwhile, street boy Malik loses his little sister to a spirit who demands that he kill Karina before the festival ends. Karina and Malik encounter each other in disguise and are attracted to each other. But how will they survive mutinous advisers and malevolent spirits?

Is it any good?

Novels inspired by African folklore are growing in popularity, and this first half of a fantasy duology makes the most of its magical setting. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin introduces readers to two well-constructed teen main character who are ready to do almost anything to restore their fractured families. Karina is more than spoiled royalty -- she's ready to take on all comers. Malik is more careful, but a deal with a devil usually doesn't end well. Fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir are likely to appreciate the book's action scenes, the unpredictable plot twists, and the sharp dialogue. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin transports readers to a vividly rendered world of magic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how A Song of Wraiths and Ruin uses West African mythology to tell its story. Were you familiar with African traditions before reading this book?

  • Stories about deals with a devil are common. Why are they popular? Who usually wins in a deal with the devil?

  • Why is the concept of family so important to Karina and Malik? Does their loyalty blind them to other realities?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

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