The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
Publisher: Viking Books
Release Date: October 30th, 2018
Rating: 4.25/5 stars!
I was kindly sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
A lush, Italian-inspired fantasy romance about a Mafia daughter that will sweep you off your feet!
Since childhood, Teodora has harbored a secret: she is a strega, blessed (or cursed) with transformative powers beyond her control. For years, she has used them to make enemies of her powerful Mafia family disappear, turning them into decorative objects. When the Capo, her nation’s ruler, launches an attack on her family that leaves her father in a coma-like state, Teodora must find a way to transform herself into a boy and travel across the mountains to the Capo’s palace to fight for her family. Her fate lies in the hands of Cielo, a shape-shifting strega who wants to help Teodora master her powers. But as Teo and Cielo make their way to the palace, and closer and closer to one another, they both discover that the Capo’s motives are far more sinister than they ever could have imagined . . . and that in a world of shifting alliances where anything and anyone can change, the only constant you can count on is love.
TL;DR – She’s a witch, she can shapeshift, there’s gayness, and it’s LITERALLY the mafia.
What’s not to like? I enjoyed this book so much. The writing style is excellent and I totally flew through the story. I became… overly invested in the romance. Agh. Okay. Organization.
Things I Loved:
- Magic stuff. Teo turns people into… household items. Think pillow. Music box. Trinkets. She’s like an assassin… But a magic assassin. But they’re not dead? They’re useful. It’s so totally cool.
- Magic descriptions. Not only is the actual magic super cool, but the descriptions are flawless and beautiful. It’s tangible, beautiful, and dangerous. It has a mind of its own. A small child drops a glass of milk and before it hits the ground, the glass is sugar and the milk has become a moth. It’s one of the most uniquely gorgeous magic systems I’ve read about, and it was a delight to experience. Magic is great. Magic is cool.
- Um, DUH, mafia! Naturally, with the mafia comes a power struggle, some murder (fun), and an inordinate amount of politics. Can’t go wrong with the mafia.
- Shapeshifting and gender roles. Both the main character and the love interest can shapeshift at will between genders (and the love interest can also shift to other animals as well). This creates SUCH an interesting dynamic, both in an androgynous perspective as well as gender roles in general. I think the androgyny and LGBT factor speaks for itself (and you should definitely read it to find out more), but the gender role conversation with this book is absolutely priceless. Teo mentions how she is treated differently as a boy versus in a female form, and different privileges she is automatically privy to with a different body. This is the most unique way to bring up this conversation, and it’s handled incredibly well. I would absolutely love to discuss this topic!
- Family is important. Ah, we love a good family side plot, am I right? I don’t want to talk much about it for fear of spoilers, but I always appreciate an attachment to family, and the relationships within Teo’s family (mafia, remember) are fascinating.
Things I Was Sad About:
- Sad, poor me didn’t get to see the map. I was blessed with an ARC copy and then realized that I was missing out on a map! Whelp, guess I’ll have to pick up a copy, haha! I feel like you all know what I’m hinting at here. There’s a certain kind of (wonderful) fantasy book with a map. This is one of those. If you’re a map person, this book is totally for you.
- That it’s over?? Not that the ending was unsatisfying, but HELLO I wanted MORE. Hello, Cielo is probably one of my favorite love interests ever and I desperately want to know more about his (their? Cielo’s pronouns seem to be pretty flexible throughout the book) family and background. There’s a lot more that the author could do with this world and even these characters, and I really hope she gets the chance to explore that. I would definitely pick up a sequel or companion.
- YOU should read this book. It has the coolest, most beautiful magic system, the MAFIA, shapeshifting, subtle and awesome gender role conversation, androgyny, family, a MAP, and honestly? A pretty cover. I said it. We were all thinking it. Don’t lie to me.
- Especially if you like Flame in the Mist (for the gender roles and the whole royalty turning into a boy thing), Assassin’s Heart (for the mafia and assassins), or Summer of Salt (even though The Brilliant Death is a much more intense fantasy, they both share that same type of magic, witchy, queer vibe).
- It’s been released – it came out a week ago! What on earth are you waiting for? Go pick it up!
Honestly, I really enjoyed this book and I think a lot of other people will too. It’s a really unique story and creates an excellent conversation that we need more of in YA fantasy. If it sounds interesting to you, I would love for you to pick it up! Definitely let me know in the comments if you’ve read this or plan to, and if so, what are your thoughts? Do you have any other similar recommendations for me? 🙂
Lots of Love, Amy Lou ❤
Amy Rose Capetta has written several novels for young adults and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. She first dreamed of writing about Vinalia when she was younger than Teo. Once upon a time her father’s family lived in Italy, in a small town in the mountainside. Now Amy Rose lives in her very own mountains in Vermont, with her partner and their young son. To learn more, visit amyrosecapetta.com