EMWF Kids’ Reads

The Song of Wrath

Written by Sarah Raughley
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster

Ages: 12+

A book review by Olive (16) and Kate (13)

The Song of Wrath

Not only are the characters well fleshed out, likeable, and diverse, but the way that each character interacts with others is extremely well done and utterly realistic given human experiences. All the characters, including the villains, are delightfully dynamic and they keep me on my toes, in wonder of how they will change and grow.

Hi Olive and Kate! Can you tell us what this book is about?

Olive: The Song of Wrath, by Sarah Raughley, is the captivating sequel to the young adult fantasy novel The Bones of Ruin. This story takes place in both 1800s Europe and Africa, following the shocking events of the first book. Iris, a former Black acrobat in London, has had her life torn to pieces behind the horrible truth as to why she could not die: she is the Hiva, a wrathful goddess designed to destroy all civilization on Earth.  While the corrupt Enlightenment Committee desperately tries to bring about the apocalypse by getting ahold of Iris’s power, Iris has to earn the trust of her friends and make surprising alliances in the race against time and her deadly powers. 

Kate: The Song of Wrath by Sarah Raughley is the story of a girl named Iris who was created by scientists millions of years ago to destroy the world. Iris has strange powers such as the ability to never die, and an ability to kill someone simply by looking at them. After discovering that her fate is to destroy humanity, Iris works with her friends and against her former friends to try and stop herself from turning into the god “Hiva” and causing the cataclysm. She discovers a lot about herself and her friends while traveling halfway around the world with them as she tries to destroy her powers before her powers destroy everything and everyone she loves. 

What do you like about this book?

Olive: While there were many things I found extremely likeable in this fantastic sequel, there were a few things that stood out for me the most, the first being the incredible perspective and world building. In a world that combines the industrial, often glorified, steampunk era in Europe and incredible magic, it is something unique and fresh that had me captivated from the start. As this story is told from the perspective of a Black woman living in these times, Raugley puts a spin on “civilised” England to show the ugly underbelly of its racist and ignorant ideology, both combating racism while telling a compelling story about friendship and trust. Additionally, the humour and character chemistry was incomparable to any other I have read, often making me giggle while reading. Not only are the characters well fleshed out, likeable, and diverse, but the way that each character interacts with others is extremely well done and utterly realistic given human experiences. All the characters, including the villains, are delightfully dynamic and they keep me on my toes, in wonder of how they will change and grow. The last thing I wanted to mention that I adored about this book was the ending…I’m sure at one point my mouth dropped and I truly got chills. The ending has left me itching for another book, desperate to find out how Iris’s story will end. 

Kate: This book is extremely exciting. The detail that Sarah Raughley puts into it makes it feel like you are there with the characters experiencing and empathizing with their emotions and choices while they fight with themselves, and each other, to do the right thing.

What do you like about the main character?

Olive: Though I did happen to love many of the characters in this novel, there is something to be said about having an equally exciting protagonist. Iris herself is powerful, sometimes terrifying, and simultaneously empathetic, serving as the epitome of character complexity. Amongst her many positive traits such as her leadership skills and her moral complexity, the things I found most unique about her as a protagonist was her unpredictability and her narrative as a goddess. As the book went on, I began to question what she would do, and was always pleasantly surprised by her actions. Her character development is a plot of its own, twisting and turning while she combats her destructive past and her humanity (or lack of). Not only was the unpredictability of her actions exciting as a reader, but the unique narrative of a goddess protagonist was something I quite enjoyed. Often, people read about the underdog who is fighting for power in an unfair world, so when a book arises where the villain, the hero, and the antihero is the supernatural protagonist, it is a new perspective that I was thrilled to read. Iris struggles with having too much power in a world built on those who profit from it, and she is burdened with the moral and mental consequences of it. 

Kate: Iris’s determination to do whatever it takes to save others instantly makes the readers root for her. Her strength and kindness is unmatched by any other character in the book, and her internal struggles and conflicts with her friends and foes makes her relatable to everyone. 

What important messages/themes are present in the story and why would this appeal to a young adult reader?

Olive: In terms of theme and messaging in this book, there is plenty to choose from. There is an underlying message of the importance of friendship and finding the people who will help you up instead of knocking you down or using you, which is appealing to teens and young adults who struggle with finding a foothold in the adult world. Iris’s trust in others is put to the test many times, and she struggles to find out who will be her true ally amongst all the willing faces who wish to help her only because of her power. With this comes the idea of identity, and the complicated process of finding where you stand in the real world. Though maybe not everyone can relate directly to Iris’s deadly past, it would be hard to not empathise with the struggles she finds in figuring out who her real self is, and how she wants to change to be better than her past. 

Kate: The power and importance of friendship and loyalty is apparent throughout the whole story. The way that the relationship of the characters is told makes it feel like the characters’ conversations are taken from real life conversations that could have happened in any YA reader’s life. 

Who would you recommend this book to?  

Olive: I recommend this book to teens and young adults, steampunk and fantasy fans, and people interested in a new perspective and diverse representation. Teens and young adults will find the underlying messages and themes reliable, while also dealing with a relatable young adult cast of characters whose struggles are reflective of ones that exist today, such as finding identity, learning who to trust, and stepping into their power. Steampunk and fantasy fans will love the world building and genre mix, providing a new era of thrilling new perspectives of two very old genres.  People interested in a diverse set of characters will be happy to see positive representation of people from all over the world, especially of the BIPOC community. Characters struggle with mental health and finding their identity, including some 2SLGBTQIA+ characters. 

Kate: I would recommend this book to everyone. The depth and themes in this story contain both exciting, action packed fantasy, and subtle realistic elements which makes it suitable for anyone who is looking for a truly amazing book.

If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?  

Olive: What inspired such a unique setting, and how did it help you develop the plot?

Kate: How do you come up with such amazing, unique ideas for your books? 

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