The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Title: The Brilliant Death
Series: The Brilliant Death, #1
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Publication date: 2018

Date started: 16/07/2020
Date finished: 27/07/2020

First sentence: “When I was a little girl, I thought my father was the king of Vinalia.”
Last sentence: “My fate had not been left behind in the castle. It did not belong to the di Sangro family. It came with me down the path, keeping pace with this new journey, changing with every step I took.”
Favorite sentence: “I had already been a screaming baby, torn from her mother too early. An uncertain little girl, watching Father from the shadows. A di Sangro daughter who did not always feel like a daughter but would never be a son. A young woman hiding a knife in her sleeve and magic in her heart.”

Summary: Teodora di Sangro is the daughter of a powerful lord in Vinalia. She loves politics and strategy and wishes she could be the heir of the di Sangro family, but knows it will never happen because she’s a girl (even though she doesn’t always feel like one). Still, she helps her family as she can, and uses her secret magical powers to transform any men who wronged her father into a decorative object. The Capo is a powerful politician who tries to unite Vinalia under his rule, and one day he sends a poisoned letter to Teodora’s father, as well as the heads of 4 other powerful families. Every victim dies except for Teodora’s father, and her step mother sends her and her little brother Luca to answer the Capo’s summons and try to find an antidote. Teodora’s older brother, Beniamo, is known for his cruelty and, now enraged for not being chosen as the heir, he starts to torture Luca, so Teodora changes him to an owl. Luca and Teodora run away, followed closely by the owl, and they meet with another streghe, Cielo. Cielo can change form from a girl, a boy, or various animals, and is gender fluid. They are trying to find the truth about their mother, and took the mission to deliver the poisoned letter in the hopes of learning something from Niccolò di Sangro, not knowing it was poisoned. Teo is very wary of Cielo, but needs them to learn how to change herself into a boy: her plan is to take Luca’s place as the di Sangro heir, because he’s not interested in ruling and she would be great at it. Luca is supposed to just go study in a prestigious university instead, because he is fascinated by science, but one night Beniamo attacks them and kills Luca… Teo and Cielo still continue on their way to the capital, Amalia, and finally arrive in the Capo’s palace. The Capo tries to convince Teo and the 4 other heirs that unification is the best strategy possible, and he shows off the streghe who work for him: the sisters Azzurra and Delfina. Magic is forbidden by the state religion, the Order of Prai, and for a second Teo has hope that the Capo could make magic legal and visible again, but then she understands what he does to the streghe he discovers. Through a process named brilliant death, when a streghe dies, their magic transfers to a nearby person. Because of this, the Capo makes Azzurra and Delfina kill any streghe who wouldn’t join his army, thus making them extremely strong. Teo has a plan to kill the Capo but it fails, and instead he discovers that she’s a streghe. He doesn’t kill her but instead kills Delfina (her blood is the antidote that will save Teo’s father) in a bid to buy Teo’s loyalty. Cielo discovers that their mother was the first streghe to pledge loyalty to the Capo, and that she killed many streghe, and then when she died all of that magic was transferred to them. Cielo and Teo go back to the Uccelli, where the antidote saves Niccolò di Sangro, and Teo discovers that her father is a streghe as well, with the power to heal. Azzurra arrives and starts to destroy the castle to avenge her sister’s death, but Teo manages to kill her (and absorb her magic). Niccolò tries to convince Teo to live as a boy and to be his official heir, but now that Teo has had a taste of gender fluidity, she doesn’t want to stay stuck as a boy forever. She leaves the destroyed castle and goes on an adventure with Cielo, who became her lover.

Opinion: This was a really good book! It’s rare enough to have genderfluid characters in novels, but to have the two main characters be genderfluid was amazing! And a love story to top it all?! The fantasy world that Amy Rose Capetta built in this book was fascinating, and the story was well constructed and full of great intrigues and plot twists. This is definitely a top tier fantasy book and I can’t wait to read the second part! Wow!!

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