It's February. I needed to find a fantasy romance to get in this month, and this one seemed like a fun one. Plus, look at that cover. Orange covers are so rare and so gorgeous when they're done right.
But my weakness for pretty covers aside, let's jump into The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta.
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.
I'm going to start by saying I've been dying to get to this book, and I was sure from the first page that I would love it. The world of The Brilliant Death is enticing from the start, with old magic hidden in the shadows and plenty of intrigue and secrets. I adore the way Capetta plays with gender and gender roles, and the Italian influence made for a unique world to explore. Teodora and Cielo are a fun duo to follow and complement each other in just the way I like to see, and the magic system is fascinating.
But sadly something was just lacking from the writing. I struggled to connect with the story on that deeper level I look for, and even in the most intense moments the emotion fell flat. While Capetta shows some serious writing chops in beautiful descriptions, it wasn't enough to pull me into the world entirely. There was a spark missing for me. I found myself wanting to be on the edge of my seat, but not quite invested enough. All in all, The Brilliant Death has some incredible ideas that I'd love to see explored more, but certain elements of the execution missed the mark. I'm a little disappointed, because I had high hopes for this one. But on themes and concepts it shines, especially when it comes to gender. Huge, huge props to Capetta for tackling that subject and handling it wonderfully.
Final score: 3 stars
Decide for yourself - Buy The Brilliant Death here!