I am so thrilled to partner with Penguin Teen and Viking Books to talk about The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta.
Click here for the Synopsis!
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.
I heard about The Brilliant Death at San Diego Comic-con last summer, and I knew immediately I needed to read it. The beautiful cover and the description of the gender fluid characters really pulled me in. The magic of the strega is highly dynamic, and somewhat forbidden. There are negative connotations attached to magic users, and Teo has to fight these stereotypes along with many others. Teo is a quick study and learns how to manipulate new facets of her magic through Cielo’s tutelage. Seeing them grow and learn together reminded me of some magical moments in The Kingkiller Chronicles.
The Italian mythology inspired plot was so much fun. The language and descriptions are so rich and added a lot to the romance of the book. Teo has to spend a lot of time traveling in the book, and the travel sequences were written very well. Usually, I’m bored by travel but it passed quickly and served a meaningful purpose for the rest of the book.
While the plot and the characters were wholly enchanting, perhaps my favorite part of this book is the connection between transformative magic and gender identity. Magic itself is neither male or female, of course, so as Teo becomes closer to magic and to the shape-shifting Cielo, the lines between male and female begin to blur for her. In fact, the lines between human and animal, animate and inanimate all begin to blur.
“It helped when the magic arrived. It wasn’t male or female. It simply was.“
Strega magic allows Teo to learn about the similarities between all things. What a beautiful and big idea for a YA novel, or any novel! I absolutely loved it, and I thought it was approached in a careful and conscious way. I think many young readers will find themselves in this book as a result.
Family plays such a central role in The Brilliant Death, specifically what children owe to their parents. Several different facets of this familial loyalty are expressed through Teo, her siblings, and also Cielo. They all struggle to meet the obligations they feel born into. In some cases, they have to realize that not even parents can set those obligations. These themes don’t detract from the magic and the passion of the story.
Teo and Cielo have a complex and compelling relationship. For once a romance I was really into! This happens so rarely and always takes me by surprise. They had to overcome hurdles I’ve never seen so artfully written in a YA novel. I would love to read more about the two of them.
I really hope you will consider giving this magical and deeply meaningful book a try. It is on shelves now! Here’s some more info on the author!
Please note the above quote was taken from the ARC, and not the final copy of the book.
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