Thursday, November 30, 2023

Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

Title: Divine Rivals
Author: Rebecca Ross
Publication: Wednesday Books/Macmillan, hardcover, 2023
Genre: YA Fantasy
Description: Iris Winnow’s beloved brother Forest has gone off to fight a strange war in which two gods are in conflict, her mother has lost her grip on reality, and Iris not only needs to earn a living but also has a newly developed desire to be a journalist. She competes for a columnist position on the Oath Gazette newspaper but her rival, the attractive but annoyingly perfect Roman Kitt, has a head start on her. He’s been at the paper for a month and doesn’t have the challenging home situation that makes her late for work when the new assignments are posted. Angry and lonely, Iris starts typing letters to her missing brother she cannot send, so she slides them under a wardrobe door – where they disappear. When mysterious responses start to appear, Iris is frightened but intrigued. She answers, and regular communication ensues, and Iris realizes how easy it is to confide in a stranger, and how comforting that is compared to the stress of her daily life. However, she eventually becomes so desperate for news of her brother that she leaves Oath and travels 600 kilometers to the trenches where some of the war is taking place. Despite the danger, she makes close friends but nothing can replace the connection she feels with her anonymous correspondent . . .

My Impression: Well, it doesn’t take familiarity with You’ve Got Mail or She Loves Me to realize Iris’s empathetic letter writer is Roman (plus the author tells us), who does not dislike Iris, as she thinks, but has troubles of his own: his father has insisted on his betrothal to an unpleasant but wealthy daughter of family friends. While Roman is also baffled by the appearance of the letters that appear from under his wardrobe, he realizes immediately from the content they are from Iris. He thinks she would be humiliated to know he has read and knows her misery, so he says nothing, but he is touched by her vulnerability and finally writes back. They continue to snipe by day, both hoping to be chosen to be a columnist by the newspaper editor – the loser, presumably, would get stuck writing obituaries – but become close at night when they pour out their worries to each other in letters.

I had not heard of Ross previously, although this is her seventh book, but I found it so charming I immediately bought a copy for my sister’s birthday. Everyone likes a good enemies-to-lovers theme and that made up for the confusing mythological background of an angry war god and a gentle music goddess. The enmity of the gods, revived after 200 years, has plunged the mortals into a war with magical rules and all-too-real death, but the world-building did not capture my interest as much as intrepid Iris, Roman who is not as articulate when talking to Iris as he is in writing, their curmudgeonly newspaper editor Zeb, sensitive Forest, and others. Ross’s storytelling pulls the reader in from the beginning and makes her root for Iris and Roman; I went ahead and ordered the next book which comes out right after Christmas.
I usually use the branch near my office but the main library is gorgeous:
Source: This book is overdue and the library reproachfully tells me there are 66 people waiting! Don't these computers realize I was busy with Thanksgiving and watching college basketball and my actual job?  I promise I will bring it back today. 

1 comment:

Janette said...

This a is a great review and I totally agree about the characters driving the story rather than the world building. I enjoyed it and have ordered the next one from the library. Hope you got your copy back to the library OK😃