Malik is a refugee, searching for a future for himself and his sisters in the capital city of Ziran. The ruling Sultanas have exploited his conquered homeland for generations, but if Malik and his siblings--his older sister Leila, commanding and competent, and younger Nadia, naive and excitable--can find jobs in the city during the expansive festival of Solstasia, they'll be able to make a better life for themselves and their family. But as they enter Ziran, Nadia is captured by an obosom--a dangerous and powerful ancient spirit--and Malik strikes a bargain. The obosom will release Nadia, but only if Malik kills Princess Karina Alahari, the Sultana's daughter, before the conclusion of the Solstasia festival.
Karina Alahari has always been the irresponsible princess, who all doubt will ever be equipped to become Sultana after her mother, an analysis with which she agrees. When her mother is killed, she knows she has no chance of ruling well in her stead. But then she discovers an ancient rite of resurrection, which she could use to bring her mother back to life, which requires the heart of a king. And Karina knows how she can create one: by offering her hand in marriage as the prize for the Solstasia competition. A plan which Malik has no knowledge of when he manages to enter the contest, knowing only it will help him get close enough to Karina to kill her.
Malik and Karina are slowly drawn together over their deviant desires over the course of the festival. But there are forces at work which neither understands, and only by comprehending them can either hope to succeed.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a powerfully drawn, multilayered fantasy novel full of twisting plot threads and unusual magic. Malik and Karina are wholly unique and interesting, two of the best protagonists I've met in young adult fantasy, and fall outside of cliches in this genre to propel this story forward and make it even more engrossing. The plotting is skillful and full of surprises, and although more than once I thought I knew where this story was going, I never quite did. Perhaps best of all is the atmosphere and setting of this book. Roseanne A. Brown weaves together folktales to create a distinct and magical setting, and the world she evokes in Ziran and the surrounding empire is already a favorite. I can't wait to read the sequel! I highly recommend A Song of Wraiths and Ruin to readers ages thirteen and up.