The Brilliant Death
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.

The Brilliant Death Details

TitleThe Brilliant Death
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 30th, 2018
PublisherViking
Rating
GenreFantasy, Young Adult, Lgbt

The Brilliant Death Review

  • Emily May
    January 1, 1970
    Teodora di Sangro’s life is built on secrets. The Brilliant Death sucked me in pretty much instantly when the protagonist - Teo di Sangro, who is a strega - waltzes onto the page and turns a man into a music box for threatening the well-being of her family. As it turns out, this guy is just one more trinket added to Teo's collection. You'd better learn it fast: while Teo's around, no one screws with the di Sangros.Hell yeah.From there, a bigger fantasy world opens up, filled with stregas and ot Teodora di Sangro’s life is built on secrets. The Brilliant Death sucked me in pretty much instantly when the protagonist - Teo di Sangro, who is a strega - waltzes onto the page and turns a man into a music box for threatening the well-being of her family. As it turns out, this guy is just one more trinket added to Teo's collection. You'd better learn it fast: while Teo's around, no one screws with the di Sangros.Hell yeah.From there, a bigger fantasy world opens up, filled with stregas and other Italian-inspired elements like the mafia and it's leader (or "Capo"). Teo has long kept her magic a secret from her family but she is forced to use it more and more when a magically-poisoned letter arrives and leaves her father dying. The book blends magic and politics really well. Teo must quickly learn to harness her magic for her family's sake, though enemies are everywhere-- one even being her vindictive older brother, Beniamo. The dynamic first-person prose keeps the pages turning at a fast pace; in fact, I would argue that the book could have slowed down in parts, but as criticisms go, that's not a bad one to have.But you want to know what really made me like this book? I mean more than the strong writing, charismatic narrator and fast-paced political machinations? Cielo was a wild strega. I was a di Sangro. We could only lose each other. ...CIELO. Be still my beating heart, I think I'm in love. I didn't realize it before reading this book, but a sexy gender fluid strega is absolutely what has been missing from my life. Cielo is... one of those characters. You know the ones. The mysterious, kinda naughty, cheeky characters who you can't help falling in love with. And Cielo - who sometimes appears as a boy and sometimes as a girl - becomes Teo's magic tutor, and the interactions between the two of them are wonderful.Much of the story is about being a girl, not quite being a girl, and defining yourself outside of other people's expectations. The quiet power of the book's conclusion left me with shivers down my spine. I think the author leaves the story in a good place; only time will tell whether The Brilliant Death is a standalone or a series, but for now at least, it feels like the end. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Em (RunawayWithDreamthieves)
    January 1, 1970
    A 19th century mafia story featuring a genderfluid shape-shifter and a queer romance? 20gayteen went OFF
  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    I had discovered a special way that women could be dangerous. They were trained to play close attention to people. To take them apart, like Luca had done with his clockworks, and study how they ran. This was so. freaking. interesting. A story following a genderqueer narrator who can turn people into boxes, and her love interest who can literally magically switch sexes, all set in a 19th-century-Italian-inspired world by an Italian author. Like, come on, how can I even resist that?The Brillian I had discovered a special way that women could be dangerous. They were trained to play close attention to people. To take them apart, like Luca had done with his clockworks, and study how they ran. This was so. freaking. interesting. A story following a genderqueer narrator who can turn people into boxes, and her love interest who can literally magically switch sexes, all set in a 19th-century-Italian-inspired world by an Italian author. Like, come on, how can I even resist that?The Brilliant Death follows Teo, who, after her father is murdered, is forced to journey to the capital of her state to attempt to save his life. Along the way, a form-changing witch joins her. She also turns several terrible men into inanimate objects, which is something I am always here for. Fundamental to this book is a discussion of denial of identity. Lead character Teodora has both denied her identity as a witch and denied her complicated relationship with her gender. I absolutely loved the coherency with which her arc around discovering herself tied together - her character journey is one of my favorite aspects of this book. And with this, the book becomes a journey about hiding places, and the way we can hide love and hide queerness in plain sight. There’s a clear avoidance of the inevitable outing, which I almost expected throughout the book, and I was incredibly impressed by how well Capetta handled this. There is also a romance, and it is fairly shockingly good. Cielo, the love interest, is a bit of the Rogue Hero trope in the best way. They sometimes appear as a boy and sometimes as a girl, but are never quite either. Sort of related - the book’s utter refusal of gender is too powerful. This is #ownvoices for both nonbinary characters and it is just so excellent. There are cliche moments. A death I didn’t like. Some villain monologuing. Plot is often forgotten for the (admittedly, very good) romance. Though the villains do have shades of well-intentioned extremist, they aren’t very memorable - sisters Azzura and Delfina are the only exceptions. I could have had more of Teo’s love for her family. I have to be honest though and say that my #1 favorite moment of this book is when Amy Rose Capetta called her partner Cori “my very own sexy magic tutor” in the acknowledgments. i, personally, love romance. ✨Arc received via my local bookstore for an honest review. releases: 8 October 2018.Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
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  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.Blog | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | Youtube | TwitchBuddy read with May at Forever and Everly & Lilly at Lair of Books! ❤
  • ⚔ Silvia ⚓
    January 1, 1970
    I've thought about it and while a lot of the premise of this book sounds amazing, as an Italian person the mafia element makes me way too uncomfortable to even consider reading it.
  • may ➹
    January 1, 1970
    Amy Rose Capetta called her partner her “very own sexy magic tutor” in the acknowledgements and your loss if you don’t want to read a book about sexy magic tutors, magic that can turn men into objects, and gay// buddy read with felix and bad memory
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  • Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥
    January 1, 1970
    What's this magic and when can I read it?! I mean:- A Mafia don's daughter- A gender fluid character - Magic!!!- A queer romance- Some sort of blood feud?!Sign me up!! I need this in my life ASAP!!! This is what I call intriguing. XD
  • julianna ➹
    January 1, 1970
    wow our main characters are a genderfluid couple, amazing
  • Vicky Who Reads
    January 1, 1970
    4 starsIf I could pick three words to describe this book with, it would be "lush," "conspiratorial," and "queer."Because this book is "lush" in almost every way:- It's magic system--with the strega who are going through a time of change as people attempt to exploit their magic and use it for nefarious purposes--fully embodies the word "lush" with the elegant way the magic works and its smooth execution.- "Lush" in the way that the characters are rich and developed and shaped in a way that you un 4 starsIf I could pick three words to describe this book with, it would be "lush," "conspiratorial," and "queer."Because this book is "lush" in almost every way:- It's magic system--with the strega who are going through a time of change as people attempt to exploit their magic and use it for nefarious purposes--fully embodies the word "lush" with the elegant way the magic works and its smooth execution.- "Lush" in the way that the characters are rich and developed and shaped in a way that you understand who they are outside of a stereotype.- Family and friendship and romance are all woven together into a "lush" tapestry of personal connections with the characters that make this book wholly relatable on a deeper level."Conspiratorial" in many aspects:- The way that Teodora sneaks around and "conspires" to get what she wants, no matter what means necessary. If it's through working with another strega or turning her own brother into an owl, she will do what she needs to achieve her goal.- How secrets, lies, betrayal, and political machinations of the Capo and other players in this game add to the "conspiratorial" nature of this book.And queer in both of the main characters:- The romance was so solid and I totally ship Teodora and Cielo together!!!!- Shape-shifting multi-gendered tutor (aka Cielo) who is literally my favorite with all the swoons. I absolutely love Cielo and there were definitely some spicy moments between Teo and Cielo!- Also, not in the main characters because in the very last line of the acknowledgements Amy Rose Capetta calls her wife "my very own sexy magic tutor" and if that's not enough to convince you to read this book, I don't know what is.Overall, there's so much to love with the strong characters and great worldbuilding, but something just didn't click with me personally.I don't really know why, but I was a little bit confused, even at the end of the book, by what happened. I ended up understanding the overarching plot, but the scenes sometimes just didn't really sink in for me. I'm not sure if this was because some important scenes needed more emotional weight or, alternatively, that I sort of strayed while I was actively reading because some scenes didn't engage me enough.If this book rated me as a reader, it would probably only be a 4 or something, because sometimes it feels like I wasn't paying attention enough, even though I really was trying to obsess over this novel.In the end, I did end up enjoying both the concept and a lot of the execution, I just feel like it was missing some of that oomph that would have launched this into a higher-than-4-star-read!This is a really solid fantasy, and I definitely recommend to anyone looking for queer characters, Italian-inspired fantasy, magic, and the girl-disguised-as-a-boy trope!Thank you so much to Penguin Teen and Bookish First for providing me with an advance reader's copy in exchange for an honest review!Blog | Instagram | Twitter
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  • Catie
    January 1, 1970
    3 1/2 starsThe world definitely needs more sexy gender-bending magic tutors – I know I’ve always thought so, and this book definitely delivers on the SGBMT’s. This is mostly a classic quest/court-intrigue type fantasy, but the beautiful writing and unique details kept me interested until the end.Teodora (“Teo”) DiSangro has been her family’s secret assassin ever since she was small and realized that she was a strega who had the power to change people into everyday objects. Thanks in large part t 3 1/2 starsThe world definitely needs more sexy gender-bending magic tutors – I know I’ve always thought so, and this book definitely delivers on the SGBMT’s. This is mostly a classic quest/court-intrigue type fantasy, but the beautiful writing and unique details kept me interested until the end.Teodora (“Teo”) DiSangro has been her family’s secret assassin ever since she was small and realized that she was a strega who had the power to change people into everyday objects. Thanks in large part to her excellent lurking/eavesdropping skills and handy way with magic, the DiSangro family has remained in power over her village, but when a formal letter arrives that almost kills her father on the spot, Teo must venture out to the capital where she will match wits with the dastardly Capo – a new ruler who claims to want to unite the country.On her way, she meets the aforementioned SGBMT, an enigmatic fellow strega named Cielo (who gave me major Howl-vibes). Instead of transforming outside people and objects, Cielo is a master of transforming his/her person into any form imaginable. Cielo has a mysterious past of their own and agrees to help Teo transform herself in exchange for help on their quest for the truth.I can’t think of anything I disliked about this book, but I still felt…hollow at the end. It felt as though this story was very “bare bones” throughout. That’s not to say that the writing was spare or limited – there’s some beautiful figurative language and imagery here. Rather, the characterization and world-building felt shallow and rushed. The plot also moved along at such a fast clip that I occasionally got confused. Characters seemed to make split second decisions, scenes abruptly changed, and resolutions were found before I was ready. I felt like the text was almost encouraging me to skim it. However, feeling like I wanted more is not such a bad thing. I hope that this series continues – I will most likely read the next one if it does.
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  • Marianne - November Words
    January 1, 1970
    Look at this premise. Look at it.
  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    This is such an immersive, well-written fantasy! I love the Italian-inspired world and the gender fluid lovers, and the magic system is really well thought out.
  • OutlawPoet
    January 1, 1970
    I had to do a little thinking before writing this review.It’s likely clear from my star rating that I didn’t like it very much. I won’t give it one star because there was something I appreciated about it.I like the fact that this is a diverse author who gives us a main character who is also diverse. I looked at the author’s website out of curiosity and she self identifies as bi, demi-girl, and queer. And this seems to be who her main character is, which is awesome. I think there will be readers I had to do a little thinking before writing this review.It’s likely clear from my star rating that I didn’t like it very much. I won’t give it one star because there was something I appreciated about it.I like the fact that this is a diverse author who gives us a main character who is also diverse. I looked at the author’s website out of curiosity and she self identifies as bi, demi-girl, and queer. And this seems to be who her main character is, which is awesome. I think there will be readers who identify with Teo.*But* - I think there are better examples of gender fluid characters in fiction out there. Pick up Ursula K. Le Guin, China Mieville, Octavia Butler, and so many othersIn this one, the gender issues were clunky. And her final decision when it came to gender? Disappointing.But I didn’t pick up the book for the diverse main character. I picked it up because it promised fantasy mixed with mafia – and it failed.The fantasy aspect is hard to wrap your head around. Teo’s magic is silly rather than awe inspiring. And some of it doesn’t make sense. Later in the book, when Teo’s power, um…alters(?) since I’m trying not to spoil things, the author seems to forget a huge aspect of these powers. Completely and utterly forgets it.And as for the mafia aspect? It was a let down. Rather than bring in any of the cultural and historical mafia roots, we just get the word Capo a lot. And honestly, the Capo should have been been the Capo dei Capi. But nope. We get a few Italian phrases and a few references to ‘the five families’ and that’s it.All in all, the book was, unfortunately, a disappointment.It’s not enough to give us diverse characters. Readers deserve rich plots, solid world building, and attention to detail.*ARC Received via Amazon Vine
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  • Meigan
    January 1, 1970
    With such a unique and intriguing premise, and one that promised magic, political intrigue and so much more, I couldn’t help but be excited for The Brilliant Death. And if the above wasn’t enough to hook me, add in mafia and gender-fluid characters, all set against a backdrop of a fantasy version of 19th century Italy, and I knew this was going to be a book that worked for me. And it most certainly did. The action starts almost immediately, with Teodora DiSangro’s father rendered immobile and on With such a unique and intriguing premise, and one that promised magic, political intrigue and so much more, I couldn’t help but be excited for The Brilliant Death. And if the above wasn’t enough to hook me, add in mafia and gender-fluid characters, all set against a backdrop of a fantasy version of 19th century Italy, and I knew this was going to be a book that worked for me. And it most certainly did. The action starts almost immediately, with Teodora DiSangro’s father rendered immobile and on the brink of death from a mysterious letter that was delivered by an equally mysterious courier. The letter reeks of magic but only Teo knows that, since she’s not just an ordinary girl, but one who’s spent her entire life hiding what she is — a strega. Magic in her country is thought of as a myth, a legend, and certainly something not *real*. But Teodora is real, as is her magic, and having anyone find out that it isn’t a fairytale is sure to bring about chaos and probable death for Teo. Her father’s condition means that someone from her household must go to the capital and see the Capo in order to establish a new head of the DiSangro household, but the problem is complicated, to say the least. The only options for a new head are Teo’s younger brother, who’s much too meek and unwilling to lead, and her older one, who lives his life thriving on inflicting pain on others including his own family. The only thing Teo wants to do is save her father, and it’s up to her (and a new and very interesting ally) to try to save her father and their family name. The Brilliant Death was such an interesting and immersive read and I really loved everything about it. The writing was lush and lyrical and a perfect companion to the equally lush and rich setting of an imagined 19th century Italy (which, take away the fantasy element, and it could have easily been an accurate representation of the real 19th century Italy.) The biggest selling point for me, though, was having a fantasy intertwined with the mafia and everything that goes along with it, including politics and power plays, and that part was definitely the highlight for me. Although running a close second was Cielo, a character who effortlessly transforms into both male and female, and Teo’s journey of figuring out her own sexual identity. The ending, however, didn’t seem very final to me and I’m hoping that The Brilliant Death is the beginning of a new trilogy or series. Im hoping to see these characters again in the future and have my questions answered, so my fingers are definitely crossed in hopes of more to come. *ARC provided by BookishFirst.
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  • Tirzah Price
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant and humorous and adventurous. Your new favorite fantasy novel. Also, hella queer.
  • Kelsey
    January 1, 1970
    ***I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review***---Update: THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL!!!!!!!!---I really enjoyed this book! It's probably more of a 3.5 stars for me. The writing and flow of the story is lovely. It kept me engaged and more than once, I caught myself thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it. The base of the story has SO much potential.I loved how there was an Italian mafia feel to the families and the loyalties they had. You just get a sense that eve ***I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review***---Update: THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL!!!!!!!!---I really enjoyed this book! It's probably more of a 3.5 stars for me. The writing and flow of the story is lovely. It kept me engaged and more than once, I caught myself thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it. The base of the story has SO much potential.I loved how there was an Italian mafia feel to the families and the loyalties they had. You just get a sense that everyone would do whatever it took to protect their family.The magic inside this world had SOOOO much room for expansion. I was left wanting more when it came to the whole magic part of the book. I wanted the history and the complete knowledge of the magic and it's system of working. I wanted Teodora to understand and learn more about herself and how to control her magic and master it.I really loved Cielo. I think I liked Cielo more than I liked Teodora. I wanted to know more about him/her.I really think this book could have been longer. There are so many side characters that need more of a story. And I really felt like the villain, the Capo, wasn't developed enough. He wasn't too incredibly ruthless or evil enough, IMO. I also didn't feel like the dynamics with Teodora's family were really believable. I could never get a sense of who was actually REAL or what their true thoughts were.I'm trying to make sense without giving away anything...so I'm sorry if this seems scattered.Overall, I enjoyed the plot. I think the character development could have been better. And there were a TON of loose ends. Nothing wrapped up nicely at the end and I was left with too many questions. The ending was rushed and there was no real conclusion. I know this book is marketed as a standalone, but it really could be a longer book or have a sequel. There are just too many things that wouldn't make sense to leave them as they are.
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  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    I can’t quite decide between 3.5 and 4 stars for this book, so I’m just rounding up to 4 for now. Overall The Brilliant Death felt unique and enjoyable, but it did have some issues.
  • Mandy
    January 1, 1970
    *I received an early copy of this through the website, Bookish First - didn't change my opinion at all but thanks so much!*This book will easily go down as one of the most surprising and intriguing reads that I read of all 2018. I've read such few books this year that have stood out, and this book brought sexiness, magic, and moreeeeeeeeeeeee. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting when I first picked this book up. All I remembered was mafia but with magic, and like, that was enough for me? This *I received an early copy of this through the website, Bookish First - didn't change my opinion at all but thanks so much!*This book will easily go down as one of the most surprising and intriguing reads that I read of all 2018. I've read such few books this year that have stood out, and this book brought sexiness, magic, and moreeeeeeeeeeeee. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting when I first picked this book up. All I remembered was mafia but with magic, and like, that was enough for me? This book brought all the magic - the easy writing, the incredibly interesting and original magic system, the complex and rootable characters, and a romance that finally brought me a ship to sailllllll. The only issue I had a few times was with the writing. Don't get me wrong - Capetta is a fantastic writer and her book really is a breeze to read through. To be honest, fantasy usually trips me up a bit with the worldbuilding, but I would consider this to be "light" fantasy where we get some epic magic without have to diving deep into a brand new, wholly imagined world. However, the issue I had was sometimes I would get confused. For example, the first time our main character Teo meets, Cielo, I was really confused. Like it seemed a little odd and disjointed and I kept blinking at the page going, feeling like there was a glitch in my matrix because it wasn't computing??? It just happened a few times, but that was the only thing I really noticed with the book. Otherwise, Capetta fully immersed me in a beautiful, lush setting that I could easily see with a beautiful magic world that was easy to understand - which is all a book princess could ask for.Our main characters were great. I really vibed with Teodora. I got the decisions that were made,and I got her wants and I got her desires and I just got her. She was so easy to root for, and I loved being in her voice. Cielo was such a fascinating and great character. Cielo always felt like not just a magical character but magic itself. Cielo was enchanting and caring. I would have liked a little bit more diving in deeper with Cielo, just because I wanted to learn as much as I could. And yes, both Teodora and Cielo are genderfluid, and seeing their struggles/freedom/etc. with this was amazing. The other side characters were interesting, dynamic, and distinct as well.Plus, the romance between them was fieryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. I found some feels finalllllllllllllllly. My cold heart does pitter patter again! Can we all heave a sigh of relief that the princess of swoons found some swoons??The plot was pretty captivating as well. There was no real moment that was just thrown in for filler. We're quickly thrown into the fire with Teodora having to run off with her brother, Luca, to find a way to cure her dying father while also dealing with a meddling and tyrant head of the five families who poisoned her father in the first place. Then add in cool magic and a mysterious witch, and you've got one story that keeps you on your toes. Overall, this was such a cool read. I loved reading it, and I was quite sad to be separated from the world once I finished. Really the only thing that tripped me up were a few confusing parts, but overall, this was a really cool world that was Mandy Verified Easy Fantasy. A good ship, good characters, and good plotlines drove the heart of this story, and you will definitely want to add to your TBRs if you want something different than the ordinary YA fantasies out there. 5 crowns and a Tiana rating!
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  • Kath (Read Forevermore)
    January 1, 1970
    An arc of this book was sent to me by Penguin Teen in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.Rating: 5 / 5The Brilliant Death is a BRILLIANT book, and yes I was waiting for forever to actually say that! It is set in an amazing fantasy world with stregas (which I looked up and it is the Italian word for witch that refers to a group of pagan magic users who protect Venice or the modern Italian Wiccan-styled witch) and other Italian-inspired elements. This book was high An arc of this book was sent to me by Penguin Teen in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.Rating: 5 / 5The Brilliant Death is a BRILLIANT book, and yes I was waiting for forever to actually say that! It is set in an amazing fantasy world with stregas (which I looked up and it is the Italian word for witch that refers to a group of pagan magic users who protect Venice or the modern Italian Wiccan-styled witch) and other Italian-inspired elements. This book was highly intriguing and I found myself loving every page. It has my favorite combinations of magic and politics and Capetta just does so well with it.— writingSuch complex world and beautiful writing. I honestly could not find something I did not enjoy in this book, and it’s the first in a while that has just blown my mind away. I honestly am still so “shook” with the way this magic system and world works. Also Capetta’s writing style is just to die for, IT IS SO GOOD!! Action packed and perfectly paced!— charactersGender fluid characters and awesome romance, what more could I ask for from a diverse fantasy book. Also Teo is just AHMAZING! And CIELO! My goodness, I never knew I could find a character that I would be able to laugh more over. Mysterious and cheeky, I could not have asked for more.— plotSet in 19th century Italy and honestly perfect rep for gender fluidity, and adding BRILLIANT magic to it, you cannot find a more amazing fantasy book for this fall. Captivating and unputdownable are the only words I can currently use to describe it. If you’re looking for a book with queer characters, Italian-inspired fantasy, or a girl-disguised-as-a-guy book, this is perfect for you.
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  • Aimee ♥ | Aimee, Always
    January 1, 1970
    why isn't anyone talking about this???????????
  • Gretchen
    January 1, 1970
    On its surface, this appears to be yet another addition to the string of Strong Female Protagonist Fantasy YA books that are crowding our shelves. This entry stands out above the others I've read in recent years thanks to the author's capable writing, a winning protagonist, and the thoughtful exploration of gender transformation-via-magic, folded into a court-and-family magic intrigue that play combine to heightened effect. Teo's journey is never simple, and warring duty to family and to self ar On its surface, this appears to be yet another addition to the string of Strong Female Protagonist Fantasy YA books that are crowding our shelves. This entry stands out above the others I've read in recent years thanks to the author's capable writing, a winning protagonist, and the thoughtful exploration of gender transformation-via-magic, folded into a court-and-family magic intrigue that play combine to heightened effect. Teo's journey is never simple, and warring duty to family and to self are never reduced to easy or trite answers. The exploration of gender fluidity--and its resonance with gender roles in a sexist society--were thoughtfully curated in a way I rarely see in published fiction. I'm looking forward to introducing readers to Teo and Cielo, and I'll be eagerly awaiting Capetta's next foray.
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  • Claire (bookscoffeeandrepeat)
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not really sure how I felt about this. It didn't seem as unique and intriguing as I expected. I can see how interesting this book can be for others especially after reading the blurb. However, I thought there was nothing unique about the premise and it didn't seem to completely capture my attention. I don't know if the pacing is slow for this book, and/or if I needed to immerse myself in this story. I maybe have to read a couple of chapters before I decide to continue on the story.
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  • Jean
    January 1, 1970
    DNF at 30%. I like stories that can make me feel--whether it's anger or devastation or happiness--and this book was the opposite of that. The flow, logic, and emotions delivered in this book felt incredibly unnatural to me. Conversations failed to connect, be it a simple explanation about something, or a situation developing from point A to point B. The protagonist also seemed so entirely detached from the deaths of her family members that I felt completely detached from the book too. The premis DNF at 30%. I like stories that can make me feel--whether it's anger or devastation or happiness--and this book was the opposite of that. The flow, logic, and emotions delivered in this book felt incredibly unnatural to me. Conversations failed to connect, be it a simple explanation about something, or a situation developing from point A to point B. The protagonist also seemed so entirely detached from the deaths of her family members that I felt completely detached from the book too. The premise was interesting, and so was the Strega magic system, but it wasn't enough to keep me going.
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  • Madalyn (Novel Ink)
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this! I don’t reach for fantasy very often these days, but this is exactly the kind of fantasy I love: beautiful writing, political intrigue, cool magic systems, and, of course, queer characters!!!
  • Lilly (Lair Of Books)
    January 1, 1970
    ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a honest review
  • Katherine Moore
    January 1, 1970
    ‘The Brilliant Death’ just quite simply is a beautiful book. It defied and exceeded my expectations for it, and I could barely put it down once I started. I didn’t actually even mean to read it right now, and what I mean by that is, my plan was just to ‘read a little bit’, ie. The Prologue, and well…suddenly, I’d read the whole book. The premise of the book rolls some themes together but once you start reading ‘The Brilliant Death’ you find it’s more than a sum of shape-shifting magic plus warri ‘The Brilliant Death’ just quite simply is a beautiful book. It defied and exceeded my expectations for it, and I could barely put it down once I started. I didn’t actually even mean to read it right now, and what I mean by that is, my plan was just to ‘read a little bit’, ie. The Prologue, and well…suddenly, I’d read the whole book. The premise of the book rolls some themes together but once you start reading ‘The Brilliant Death’ you find it’s more than a sum of shape-shifting magic plus warring Mafia-style crime families. The story revolves around this wonderful character Teodora, and the book opens with her remembering the first time she saw her father kill someone, in order to protect ‘his family and his mountains’. She learns early on that her father is a powerful man.Teodora di Sangrò is the daughter of the ‘great Niccolo di Sangrò’, who has control of the Uccelli region and heads a loyal family. One day Niccolò is suddenly poisoned by a letter he receives from the Capo, who has taken over the governance of all of Vinalia. The Capo has summoned ‘the heirs of the five families’ as these poisonous letters have left the fathers for dead (except Niccolò, who is barely grasping onto life), to his home in Amalia, but Niccolò had wanted his second son, Luca, to become the heir. Before Luca sets off on his trip to Amalia, Teodora/Teo catches the ruthless eldest son Benaimo, brother to them both, skinning Luca alive, so she dares reveal her greatest secret to them both, which is how she’s managed to carry out her ‘work' (ridding the kingdom of ‘bad people’) for her family for so long without a drop of blood being shed: Teo is a strega, and she has been turning nasty human beings into (mostly) inanimate objects for years. This time though, she manages to turn her brother into a vicious owl.Luca and Teo set off on their journey to Amalia, set on finding an antidote to their father’s poisoning and to fulfill the Capo’s Summons, with a plan in mind, and luckily they meet another dashing and knowledgeable strega, Cielo, which means they have hope.I don’t want to reveal much more of the plot beyond that because once Teo, Cielo, and Luca start their journey to Amalia, the story really gets going and it’s hard not to become fully invested after that point. The storyline builds from the journey that the trio take, and this involves Teo learning more of her magic (and her self-discovery), to a novel that involves the deception and intrigue we often see in a royal court. Yet this time, these ‘families’ who are convening are basically feared mobsters in an Italian-style court of old, and the lush world-building that the author Amy Rose Capetta has conjured up for them is vivid and so different from every other court or castle I’ve read of lately. The magic that is central to this book is a very special kind of magic, it’s shape-shifting, and that’s important to the most wonderful, surprising, and probably groundbreaking part of this novel: Teo (and Cielo) learns to change from a girl to a boy, and back (as a strega), and the conversation about how she/he feels in that body at different times. The power to change the body, and how Teo learns to harness magic is a fascinating part of this book, and Capetta approaches it with a delicateness, and at the same time, boldness, which makes the ‘gender-bending’ so unique and so wonderful to read.The love story that is wrapped up in the magic, as well as the danger and adventure, is so original, that it’s hard to describe. I found myself loving these ‘odd’ characters, and even though I found a few holes to pick at and a few slight issues with pacing (slight rushed parts), the writing is beautiful; my eyes didn’t want to leave the page, plus I enjoyed the different sections Capetta used to divide the book up with.This is an absolute stunner of a fantasy for this coming Fall (the cover even stands out in its lush Autumn tones), and this is sure to capture lots of peoples’ attention with its enthralling magic, and uniquely wonderful gender-bending love-story. A ‘Brilliant Book’.
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  • Mary Nguyen (fox & wit)
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book despite struggling to get into it. Once I hit “that spot” I thoroughly enjoyed it.This is a story of a young girl who struggles with her identity on all fronts.First there is her obligation to her family, who are essentially one of the five royal families. She certainly loves her parents and her siblings but her father values traditions that stifles her, her siblings and the citizens her family rules over. He doesn’t endorse science and progress, stifles magic out fear (even if I loved this book despite struggling to get into it. Once I hit “that spot” I thoroughly enjoyed it.This is a story of a young girl who struggles with her identity on all fronts.First there is her obligation to her family, who are essentially one of the five royal families. She certainly loves her parents and her siblings but her father values traditions that stifles her, her siblings and the citizens her family rules over. He doesn’t endorse science and progress, stifles magic out fear (even if in other parts of the country magic is out in the open) and perpetuates suffocating gender norms.She’s raised to believe that her duty to her family comes above all else. She doesn’t know who she is outside of this role.Gender identity in general confuses and stifles her. She battles with the expectations of being in a female body. As a result, she changes her form to a male through her magic. She finds freedom in speaking and acting without fear of consequences in ways her female form could not afford her.Throughout the story she changes back and forth between male and female forms and discovers who she is without these boundaries set out by society.If you’re looking for a novel that shatters gender and sexual identity norms this book is it. I’ve not read any gender fluid novels like this and find it so well done.Even if you’re not into the whole LGBTQIA stuff, this is a beautiful novel of finding one’s identity in a world that insists you be a certain way. If you’ve ever lost yourself because of familial and societal demands I think you’ll connect to this novel.
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  • Jessie
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the beginning of this book. Teo is the daughter of the di Sangro family. Despite being the most suited to run the family, as a daughter, that’s not an option. Instead, Teo helps the family by secretly turning the family’s enemies into trinkets with the magic they’ve kept secret. How cool is that?!?Teo meets Cielo, a strega (magic wielder) who can change their physical appearance at will, and starts to question their own gender. I loved the exploration into Teo’s gender, but I really did I loved the beginning of this book. Teo is the daughter of the di Sangro family. Despite being the most suited to run the family, as a daughter, that’s not an option. Instead, Teo helps the family by secretly turning the family’s enemies into trinkets with the magic they’ve kept secret. How cool is that?!?Teo meets Cielo, a strega (magic wielder) who can change their physical appearance at will, and starts to question their own gender. I loved the exploration into Teo’s gender, but I really did not care for Cielo. They felt so magical/mysterious that I never got a sense for who they were as a person. Their actions felt inconsistent. Their morals were unclear and when they did become clear, would change at a moment’s notice. I could not get into this romance because I couldn’t get a feel for the love interest.Additionally, the magic felt very unexplored. Teo uses the magic almost entirely to change people into objects, but it’s clear from the beginning that Teo’s magic can change objects as well. But they don't do that! “Oh, I really wish I had a dagger.” “Oh, a splint would be so useful right now.” “Oh, there’s no spare mens clothes around so I guess I have to be naked.” YOU HAVE MAGIC THAT CAN CHANGE ANYTHING INTO ANYTHING ELSE! WHY DON’T YOU GO CHANGE SOME OF THAT ANYTHING INTO THE THING YOU NEED!I loved the idea of this book. And I will always get excited for gender fluid characters. But ultimately, I found myself bored with the romance and confused on why the awesome magic wasn’t further explored.
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  • Ariana
    January 1, 1970
    Originally posted on: The Quirky Book Nerd*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*This novel was, by far, one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. I was instantly drawn into this story from the very first page and it held me captivated all the way through. The richly designed, Italian-inspired world of Vinalia is incredibly immersive, combining magic and politics in a way that deeply intrigues. A long-believ Originally posted on: The Quirky Book Nerd*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*This novel was, by far, one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. I was instantly drawn into this story from the very first page and it held me captivated all the way through. The richly designed, Italian-inspired world of Vinalia is incredibly immersive, combining magic and politics in a way that deeply intrigues. A long-believed fantasy come to life, the magic-wielding strega—that come to us in the forms of our protagonists—drive the narrative to fascinating lengths. A tale of family and friendship, bravery and strength, gripping conspiracies, capped off with a refreshingly unique, gender-fluid romance, The Brilliant Death is an absolute delight to read.In this novel, we follow Teodora DiSangro, a strega and the daughter of a mafia don. The strega are nothing but a myth to the people of Vinalia—there is no way they could be real—but Teo’s powers prove otherwise. She has kept her powers a secret from her family for many years, partaking only in turning their enemies into music boxes or other such trinkets. But circumstances change suddenly when her father, one of the heads of Vinalia’s Five Families, is sent a poisoned letter that leaves him critically ill. Teo is thrust into a world of politics where secrets abound and enemies lie in wait, and must fully harness her gift by transforming herself into a DiSangro son. With the help of Cielo—a strega who can shift between genders, and with whom she is falling in love with more each day—Teo embarks on a journey to the capital in order to save her family and face the man responsible for their suffering.The magic system featured in this story is truly unique and beautifully woven into the fabric of the plot. I appreciated how it begins in a somewhat humorous way that, while it is weighted with much importance, takes off to a lighter start. However, as the narrative progresses and becomes increasingly more complex, Teo’s abilities reflect this change, showing more depth and dimension—from the creation of decorative objects to the shifting of one’s entire being. Her power is inextricably linked to and bolstered by her love for her family and the pure strength that she shows in order to protect them proves that they are, in a way, the true source.The characters are some of the best parts of this novel and they are a major force that drives the narrative forward. Teodora is a superbly crafted, multi-dimensional character who makes the perfect protagonist and heroine for this particular story. She is easy to connect with and root for and works brilliantly as the narrator. Seeing the events of the plot through her eyes and thoughts serves to further enhance the already intriguing tale. We see her move from transforming people and objects on the outside to learning to transform herself on the inside—both literally and figuratively—as she grows and develops as a character. And as if I could not love the characterization found here any more than I already did, in comes Cielo. Cielo is charismatic, mischievous, and one of those characters who is just impossible not to love. I do not often go for the romances in most stories—I do not find myself shipping many characters or falling in love with them myself. They have to be extremely special and well-crafted to really reach me, and this one did reach me by a long shot. As Cielo takes on the role of Teo’s magic tutor, as they come together and grow in and with each other, Capetta depicts their interactions in such a pleasing way. The chemistry between Teo and Cielo is palpable and their story is an absolute joy to watch unfold.Capetta’s writing is excellent and very captivating. From her loveable characters to her detailed and strong world-building, it is easy to become completely immersed in every aspect of the novel. She creates a compelling backdrop for the myriad of events that form this spectacular saga and seamlessly entwines her characters with each other and their surroundings. At times I felt the events were a bit too fast-paced and I occasionally became a little lost among everything. Some scenes and character decisions were a bit rushed and confusing. Nevertheless, these moments did not detract much from the overall storyline. Capetta’s words are fluid and I still felt carried effortlessly through the pages. I feel I must admit that I do believe this book is not one that will appeal to every reader. Much of it is quite quirky and unusual, a very singular and extraordinary style, and the action moves very rapidly. However, I highly recommend giving it a read. The messages that this novel conveys are progressive and important beyond words. It strives to remind us to always be true to ourselves and to never give in to the expectations and pressures of others or the world around us. It speaks of the significance of getting to know ourselves and discovering our identities. The power at the core of these words increases in intensity and takes hold of you through—and well-beyond—the final pages.Personally, I found The Brilliant Death to be a beautiful and enchanting story of love and the lengths that one is willing to go to save and protect their family. It was all that I hoped it would be and more. Capetta has created an utterly distinctive tale—a powerful and enjoyable adventure with characters that will undoubtedly win many readers’ hearts. It is one of those novels that is quite refreshing to come across in today’s young adult fantasy market, and I applaud her for breaking the mold and making her own voice stand out. She proves herself to be a very talented writing through and through, and I really look forward to reading more of her work. This is a story that will stick with me for quite a while.
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  • Olivia Farr
    January 1, 1970
    "The Brilliant Death" was a fascinating story of magic and love. Teodora (Teo) has long had a secret- she is a strega, which means that she has magic, and it allows her to change people into objects. She is a second daughter of one of the 5 families. As such, she has more power than most women but still less power than men. However, her education and upbringing has been very different- her father has allowed her to sit in on his lessons. The family controls an area with a mafia-like structure, a "The Brilliant Death" was a fascinating story of magic and love. Teodora (Teo) has long had a secret- she is a strega, which means that she has magic, and it allows her to change people into objects. She is a second daughter of one of the 5 families. As such, she has more power than most women but still less power than men. However, her education and upbringing has been very different- her father has allowed her to sit in on his lessons. The family controls an area with a mafia-like structure, and his lessons have taught her thinks most of would balk at.Teo's life is about to change forever. She meets another strega in the woods, fascinating since she thought she might be the only one. This strega is carrying a letter from the Capo, a new ruler seeking to unite the lands controlled by the 5 families. The letter immediately poisons and almost kills her father. It also demands that the new head of the family come to the capital for a meeting. As Teo journeys to the capital, she is joined by the strega who carried the letter- Cielo, who can change him/herself into anything (s)he wishes- boy, girl, cloud, bird, mouse, etc.Cielo teaches Teo about magic, but Cielo is on a quest of his/her own- to find out what happened to his/her mother. Together, they seek the antidote to the poison killing Teo's father and answers about what happened to Cielo's mother and the other missing streghe. The journey is perilous and fraught with mystery- I was completely captured by the story. This was a tough book to put down, and I absolutely had to know what was going on. There were so many twists and turns that this was a suspenseful and highly engaging read.I absolutely loved the main characters of Teo and Cielo, as well as the magic. There were a lot of great secondary characters as well that I would be interested in seeing developed more in the future. The magic was also an interesting touch, with new rules and ideas that I had not seen before. This was a fantastic and unique read, and I highly recommend it for YA fantasy lovers- you won't want to miss this one!Please note that I received an ARC through bookish first. All opinions are my own.
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