LETTERS OF ENCHANTMENT Duology by Rebecca Ross (BOOK REVIEW)
“I don’t think you realize how strong you are, because sometimes strength isn’t swords and steel and fire, as we are so often made to believe. Sometimes it’s found in quiet, gentle places. The way you hold someone’s hand as they grieve. The way you listen to others. The way you show up, day after day, even when you are weary or afraid or simply uncertain.
That is strength, and I see it in you.”
Amidst the backdrop of two warring Gods are two rival journalists who by day compete against one another for the columnist position at the Oath Gazette, but by night write to each other anonymously baring their souls in each letter. After Iris Winnow’s brother Forest leaves to fight for the Goddess Enva, Iris is left taking care of her alcoholic mother and can barely make ends meet. Roman Kitt, wrapped in grief and guilt is forced to fulfil his father’s wishes rather than what his heart desires. When Iris sends letters to her brother and slips them through her wardrobe they magically appear in Roman’s room. The pair then begin a beautiful connection which, in a cruel twist of fate, sees them journey to the front lines of the war.
Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross is the first instalment in the Letters of Enchantment duology and is heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measures.
Ross portrays grief and the pain of warfare in an honest and poignant manner. With Iris’s brother presumed missing, her despair, her thin thread of hope and her determination to seek the truth seeps through. We see through the perspective of someone left behind when a loved one becomes a soldier, but when she travels to the front lines, we are also given insight into what soldiers face. The sounds of gunfire and grenades, the panic, the fear, the chaos, the physical pain, the blood and the sounds of the dying. Despite being YA, Ross does not shy away from these details and for me personally, that is exactly what I appreciated the most.
There is certainly a WW1 influence throughout, however the story is enriched with much magic and mythology of the God’s, particularly the fight between Enva, a Skyward Goddess and Dacre, an Underling God. The forgotten legends sprinkled throughout were fascinating, I desperately wanted more of those. I also thought the balance between the darker creatures of Dacre’s hounds and wyverns who terrorised the innocent folk and the whimsical magic running through several homes and businesses was very well done. This remains a cosy read even though it reflects upon such heavy themes.
The characters have a rather cosy feel to them too, with Iris and Roman building upon their relationship unwittingly through magical means. This is an enemies to lovers fantasy and yes Iris and Roman are both pitted against each other for at least half of the novel, which is exactly what I expected, so overall I found it fun to watch them fall for one another. I did sometimes find the dialogue to be awkward and fell into telling rather than showing, that is a pet peeve of mine and I’m sure others won’t mind this at all. However I did absolutely adore the letters between Iris and Roman, which were so beautifully and atmospherically expressed. I guess I’m a huge fan of epistolary writing.
“Perhaps you and I can help shorten this war, or at least dare to change the course of the tides. Or maybe that is too much to hope for. But I find that I am leaning more on the side of impossibility these days. I am leaning toward the edge of magic.”
The finale of the Letters of Enchantment duology, Ruthless Vows sees Iris Winnow and Roman Kitt separated by the war. Whilst Iris returns to Oath, the once quiet city now on the brink of invasion by Dacre’s forces, Roman is missing. Iris and her friend Attie must once again travel to the front lines to gather any information they can to report back to the The Inkridden Tribune and spread awareness of the oncoming threat, even though there are forces working against them. When Roman awakes to find himself in the most dangerous position of all, indebted to a God, he strikes up a correspondence with a stranger and gives vital information which may be the key to swaying the course of this war.
I did find the first half of this instalment a touch slower paced than the previous book as Iris and Roman both come to terms with the aftermath of the battle at Avalon Bluff. One of my least favourite tropes played a part here, that of memory loss, which meant that we the reader understand what is happening but the character doesn’t and because of that my enjoyment waned and I became frustrated. Thankfully once that particular narrative was resolved, I became much more invested. Both characters now find themselves in precarious roles and here we see just how significant journalists can be during times of war. Words hold more power than you could ever imagine and I loved how that was reflected.
Roman and Iris’ relationship still plays a significant part of this story and ultimately raises the stakes in this book as they both struggle to survive. Yet the God’s War does take a more centre stage which I was pleased with because I had been wanting to know more about each of the Gods and their mythology and Ruthless Vows certainly delivered on that score. I felt Dacre was portrayed in such an interesting way, truly believing he had been wronged by Enva, truly believing he was a kind and just God to his followers, a healer rather than a malevolent tyrant.
The ending is as explosive as it is moving and satisfying. Romantasy lovers are going to absolutely swoon over this duology.
ARC provided by Susanna at Harper Voyager UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy.