To say that I was super excited when I first snagged an ARC of Amy Rose Capetta’s, The Brilliant Death, at BookCon last year would be a bit of an understatement. I mean a medieval Italy and mafia-inspired fantasy story? SOLD.
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.
First off, I would like to point out that if you’re expecting a lot of mafia-type political intrigue and ruthless behavior…. look elsewhere. This was an epic marketing fail and I’d like to kick whoever was pushing the idea that this story was inspired by the Godfather. Because other than a little emphasis on family loyalty and that Teo’s family runs their mountain region, there wasn’t even a hint of mafia in this story. However, if you focus on the medieval Italy-inspired setting then I think you’ll be able to enjoy this story like I did. I really liked that part because it made me think of 1500’s Florence when it was being run by the Medici family and was at odds with the Catholic Church due to its extravagant lifestyle. I feel like that’s a time period that never makes enough appearances in YA literature.
As for the characters, it did take me a while before I started enjoying Teo as a character. She was always at odds with everyone, thinking that she was the only one capable of getting anything done just because she had magic and was going behind everyone’s backs in secret as her family’s personal hitman. I understand that she hated the limitations put on women by society, but I also felt like she was going about it the wrong way. Then there was my sweet little cupcake, Cielo. I loved how he balanced out Teo’s impulsiveness and perfectly black and white viewpoint of the world. He was able to help guide her and open her eyes up to other possibilities.
It was interesting to see the subject of gender-fluidity being tackled in this novel. I liked Cielo was able to introduce Teo to the possibilities with her ability, rather than focus on only not being a woman because she didn’t like that she couldn’t be her father’s heir. I thought the whole idea was handled very well, flowing really well without feeling shoehorned in or just relegated to a single scene. Instead, it was weaved throughout the entire story and was an integral part to the overall plot and development to Teo’s character, as well as her relationship with Cielo.
I do think pacing was a little bit of an issue, as it took me a while to feel really invested in the story. I think that also had a little bit to do with my feelings towards Teo in the beginning as well. Luckily, things started getting really interesting once they arrived in the capital and began interacting with the Capo. The ending was a little too rushed and open-ended for my taste as well, considering this was originally going to only be a standalone. However, with it now being turned into a duology, it doesn’t bother me quite as bad. It will be interesting to see how the author will be able to fully finish the story in the sequel. I think there was a little too much left unanswered to get a completely satisfied finale, unless it turns out to be a lot longer than this book was.
Overall this was a fun book. I loved the setting and I thought the plot was really enjoyable as well. I did have a little trouble in beginning connecting with the main character but she grew on me as the story moved along. I also thought the writing got better with time as well. I do plan on finishing this series to see how the story will end.
Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars
Have you read The Brilliant Death? If so, what did you think of it? Were you a fan of Teo’s from the beginning? What did you think of the ending?