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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Brilliant Death

  1. 4 out of 5

    شيماء ✨

    Someone: hey- Me, busy being emotionally invested in this 19th century mafia story featuring genderfluid shape-shifters, an amazing queer romance and an iconic and unabashed obliteration of the concept of gender binary: shhh please be quiet So, what’s this book about? Teodora di Sangro, the daughter of a mafia don, pays for the safety of her family with the coin of her own conscience, parceled out every time she wields her secret magic—a shadow talent of turning her father’s enemies into decorati Someone: hey- Me, busy being emotionally invested in this 19th century mafia story featuring genderfluid shape-shifters, an amazing queer romance and an iconic and unabashed obliteration of the concept of gender binary: shhh please be quiet So, what’s this book about? Teodora di Sangro, the daughter of a mafia don, pays for the safety of her family with the coin of her own conscience, parceled out every time she wields her secret magic—a shadow talent of turning her father’s enemies into decorative objects—until that purse is empty at last. To Teo, “family is fate” and family comes with very strict lines and dedicated pigeonholes for everyone, and a burn of bitterness at the knowledge that her vindictive eldest brother should inherit the title that should have been hers with none of the hardship that had made her so desperate for it. When another high lord sends out poisoned letters to the dons of the five families, including her father, in a desperate clawing for advantage, Teo must journey to the capital masquerading as the di Sangro heir to save her father, but a simple disguise won’t do. Enter Cielo, a genderfluid shape-shifting strega, who will tutor Teo and help her uncover the truths about her magic that’s she’s been mining for, like shaking dust from a tapestry of wonder. But Teo and Cielo quickly find out that a quell board has been set up, the game already in play, and all they could trust in the shifting sands of the capital’s politics is each other. “We’re not like them. Or rather, we are and we aren’t. People hold a deep fear of complication.”  Do you get all giddy at YA fantasy? Do you relish stories that blend magic and political intrigues? Are you craving new diverse and inclusive fiction? If you answered yes to all three of those questions, then this book is just for you. The Brilliant Death is a lively, quick-moving fantasy that makes sure readers know (and like) its characters well enough to care when threat comes for them. The intimidating and intricate workings of the mafia life provide an intriguing backdrop for the action—and power is a tangle of threads that everyone wants to clench in their fists, which ratchets up the tension and drives the novel to its bloody but satisfying conclusion. Although The Brilliant Death sometimes flounders until it finds its footing, characters seen only briefly, early on in the book, come to ends that don't feel necessary or earned, villains lack enough depth and care and detail in their development, and the story’s momentum suffers as a result of keeping a tight, narrow focus on the romance between Cielo and Teo, I wasn’t bothered enough to get thrown out of the story. I was very engrossed in the exploration of gender identity and the pull of family and history and other powerful themes and I think therein rests the reward for seeing this book through. Cielo and Teo are two sharp minds, two fearless hearts, thrust together by chance and bound together by a single purpose, who discover that they have much more in common than the magic pulsing through their veins. Both identify as genderfluid and use their magic to pour with ease into and out of whatever shapes they please. It was utterly nourishing to see them given enough space to explore and frankly discuss their sexuality and gender identity. As Teo and Cielo bond together and we’re treated to a romance that illustrates the power of a well-matched pairing, the story pushes on the deepest questions ingrained into their hearts and blossoms into a thoughtful, emotionally complex and absorbing tale. “Understanding rustled through me, soft as leaves. It wasn’t quite the same, but I’d often felt I didn’t fit inside the boundaries of the word girl. It reminded me of a country I could happily visit, but the longer I stayed, the more I knew I couldn’t live there all the time. There were moments when I sorely wished to be free of the confines of this body, the expectations it seemed to carry.”  Teodora’s arc, in particular, was incredible. She was the daughter of a mafia don who had kept the face of the world veiled from her. She was lost in the deep, narrow space between the two forms girls were allowed to take, but that only shored up her resolve to be more than what was preordained for her, speaking each want and ambition like a stone she built her future with. I was rooting for her all along. All quibbles aside, The Brilliant Death was a solidly crafted and very engaging novel that has representation in sorely needed ways!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    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

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elise (TheBookishActress)

    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

  4. 5 out of 5

    Riley

    If any of this interests you I highly recommend picking this up: - 19th century Italy inspired world - mafia family - political intrigue - unique magic system - queer main character - genderfluid love interest

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    I wanted to love this one bc the queer rep was AMAZING, but I’d be lying if I said the plot didn’t have my eyes glazing over for 90% of the book. It takes a lot for me to like fantasy and this just didn’t do it for me 😕 womp

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mackenzi

    non-binary leads in a pre-unification-Italy-mafioso-family fantasy aw yiss

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Blog | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | Youtube | Twitch Buddy read with May at Forever and Everly! ❤

  8. 5 out of 5

    may ➹

    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

  9. 4 out of 5

    ⚔ Silvia ⚓

    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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    julianna ➹

    wow our main characters are a genderfluid couple, amazing The Brilliant Death is set in an Italy-inspired land, Vinalia, where they’re ruled by the five mafia-esque dons. In this world, stregas are people who have various powers— such as being able to bake food that helps uncover hidden memories or turning someone’s worries into physical form— but most of them are hidden to the outside world. Teo, the protagonist, is the daughter of one of the dons and secretly a strega: she often turns her fathe wow our main characters are a genderfluid couple, amazing The Brilliant Death is set in an Italy-inspired land, Vinalia, where they’re ruled by the five mafia-esque dons. In this world, stregas are people who have various powers— such as being able to bake food that helps uncover hidden memories or turning someone’s worries into physical form— but most of them are hidden to the outside world. Teo, the protagonist, is the daughter of one of the dons and secretly a strega: she often turns her father’s opponents into items that she uses to adorn her room. I loved the writing of this book so, so much. It was so beautiful and fluid. just like our mcs ;) The plot also moves from the standard Traveling To The Area to interesting-court-intrigue-and-politics, and uhhhh I would die for that trope. But what I Really Want To Talk About is the Romance; Teo and Cielo were so cute :') :') :') :') :') and they both bond over their similar strega abilities and :') Not gonna lie I would backflip into a chasm if it meant they would stay together forever this was just overall a really solid read that I loved; thank you so much to the divinity Amy Rose Capetta for blessing us with this amazing genderqueer couple Trigger & content warnings for death, sexism, child abandonment, and the explicit skinning of a human.

  11. 4 out of 5

    ♆Hayley

    DNF 32% When I first decided to DNF this over the weekend I had a lot to say about it. Now, I just don't care. I don't care enough for a roast, I don't care enough for a lengthy review, I just do. not. care. about this book. At. All. What I do care about is that I freaking bought this at full price, which I never do and it was so disappointing, and now I'm pissed and I want my money back. So, without further adiu a quick run through. 1. The characters were boring and flat. I didn't care what they t DNF 32% When I first decided to DNF this over the weekend I had a lot to say about it. Now, I just don't care. I don't care enough for a roast, I don't care enough for a lengthy review, I just do. not. care. about this book. At. All. What I do care about is that I freaking bought this at full price, which I never do and it was so disappointing, and now I'm pissed and I want my money back. So, without further adiu a quick run through. 1. The characters were boring and flat. I didn't care what they thought, who they were or what they were doing. I didn't really understand Teo, she was conflicting to me and I didn't care to figure her out. 2. The world was extremely underdeveloped and everything was shallow. There was a brief overview of the families and the.. land? But that's about it. The magic was cool but also not explained. While reading I constantly felt like I was missing something, there wasn't enough information, no backstories when there should have been, no details, conflicts were smoothed over with no evidence of the smoothing actually happening. Example, one moment Teo and Cielo were "enemies" and the next Cielo was Teo's magic tutor. Like, what? This left me feeling scattered and confused and at 32% I still felt that I knew nothing about anyone, the magic or the world. Everything was shallow, shallow, shallow. The first "villain" and tragic event seemed totally out of nowhere and useless. 4. The writing.. left much to be desired. Straight up, it was bad. Case in point. Startling muscles lined my legs, and between them sat something that looked like a close cousin to a large, undercooked noodle. WHO. THE. FUCK. APPROVED. THAT?! I LOVE NOODLES AND NOW I'M TRAUMATIZED. I know it's YA but it's a penis, it's a fucking penis. HOW IS CALLING IT WHAT IT IS WORSE THAN THAT GROSS DESCRIPTION?! It's not a noodle, please do not compare male genitalia to FOOD. It's okay to say penis, it's not a naughty word. It's a fact. It's a penis, a penis, a penis, a penis. 4. The representation of gender fluidity was one of the main reasons I was so excited for this book and I really loved that aspect. It was so awesome and refreshing to read about gender fluid characters and I'm so happy that gender fluidity is getting representation. That being said, personally I did not think this was a good book. I just didn't like this. I didn't think it was written well and, to me, everything was lacking. Could have been so awesome though.. Ugh, serious buyer's remorse. Yes, Dee, I am.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥

    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

  13. 5 out of 5

    OutlawPoet

    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 others In 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

  14. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    3.5 Stars This was nice enough, but I wanted something a bit more! The storytelling was well done, but at times it felt a bit rushed. I think I'd of enjoyed this more if it was a duology so it could build the story that little bit more. The characters were well done and learning about the Strega had me gripped, but as previously mentioned things happened too quickly and I wanted to find out what happened to certain characters. There were certain twists that I didn't expect and I enjoyed that aspect 3.5 Stars This was nice enough, but I wanted something a bit more! The storytelling was well done, but at times it felt a bit rushed. I think I'd of enjoyed this more if it was a duology so it could build the story that little bit more. The characters were well done and learning about the Strega had me gripped, but as previously mentioned things happened too quickly and I wanted to find out what happened to certain characters. There were certain twists that I didn't expect and I enjoyed that aspect, there were lots of little things I liked, and lots of little things that I didn't enjoy as much as what I had wanted. Overall this was enjoyable and I'm glad that I picked it up, plus it has to be said that the cover is stunning!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Serena

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars Do you know what I hate? The stereotypical YA heroine. The one that's stoic but badass and has a haunting past and is "destined to bring about change." Fortunately, Teodora di Sangro isn't one of these heroines. She's badass, but also in an understated way? I don't know how to explain it. But she's a refreshing character to read about among all the other cliches in the genre. And Cielo, her "sexy magic tutor", is amazing. I love their romance and I ship them so much!! With t Actual rating: 3.5 stars Do you know what I hate? The stereotypical YA heroine. The one that's stoic but badass and has a haunting past and is "destined to bring about change." Fortunately, Teodora di Sangro isn't one of these heroines. She's badass, but also in an understated way? I don't know how to explain it. But she's a refreshing character to read about among all the other cliches in the genre. And Cielo, her "sexy magic tutor", is amazing. I love their romance and I ship them so much!! With that said, I also feel like their romance was kind of insta-love like? I mean, they knew each other for only a few days and they were declaring that they loved each other. But it's okay I guess, because I liked the romance. Which shocked me because I usually find YA romance cringey. Unfortunately, the romance overpowered the plot at times. Some of what happened...I didn't think it was realistic. But somehow, it was still so easy to get lost in the story! It was fast-paced and fun, and the book just flew by! And the writing style was so whimsical and lovely. It wasn't purple prose, but it somehow managed to keep an elegance to it that added to the story. And both Teo and Cielo are also genderqueer!! I'll admit, that was the reason I picked up this book. I wanted to read about these characters. I didn't expect to find a discussion about the different expectations surrounding gender and seeing Teo struggle with them. I loved how it was resolved too. It gave the story a much more...well, it resonated with me. Which is awesome and it made me like this book even more. There better be a sequel, or I'm rioting. (P.S. Can we just take a moment to appreciate how pretty the cover is??) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10/17/18: This book so whimsical and adorable and I'm gushing so I'm gonna stop. But let me just say, Cielo and Teo are an adorable couple. *swoons* And this was such an easy book to read! Like, it flew by?? How'd it go by so fast?! Also, that cover! RTC

  16. 5 out of 5

    Catie

    3 1/2 stars The 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 stars The 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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Who Reads

    4 stars If 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 stars If 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

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    AMAZING QUEER REP 🙌🏼 the plot didn’t hook me as much as I’d have liked, but overall it’s a solid story. Definitely recommend giving this one a try if it interests you!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karima chermiti

    Family is fate. I must admit that I stumbled on this book by chance and the title just drew me in so I read the synopsis and boy was I hooked like never before. I was so intrigued and felt slightly confused why I didn’t see this book being read by many people cause you know it’s a YA fantasy, it has an original elements to the story, it felt like something different and that’s why readers from this genre always demand, something new, something bold, something beautiful so I was wondering why Family is fate. I must admit that I stumbled on this book by chance and the title just drew me in so I read the synopsis and boy was I hooked like never before. I was so intrigued and felt slightly confused why I didn’t see this book being read by many people cause you know it’s a YA fantasy, it has an original elements to the story, it felt like something different and that’s why readers from this genre always demand, something new, something bold, something beautiful so I was wondering why is no one reading this book. I was honestly baffled by the lack of enthusiasm for this book but I digress. Let’s just talk about The Brilliant Death. The brilliant death takes place in the fantastical world called Vinalia where five familias share land, power and ambitions and it revolves around a girl named Teodora who is the daughter of the head of one of those familias. Teodora has kept the secret of her magic hidden her whole life but she knew how to wield it without suspicion and to eliminate the enemies of her familia even if she couldn’t take credit for it. 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 But all it changes when her father gets poisoned in a move to try and murder all the familias heads by the capo, the man who united Vinalia. Now, Teodora has to go to the capital to search for the antidote but the journey is dangerous and the capital is a place where treason, death and betrayals are a common thing. You know when I think about the things that I didn’t love about this book, they’re nearly non-existent. I was bothered a little bit by how this book felt like a one woman show, or in better words, it was all about the protagonist but as the story progressed that become less and less true. I also didn’t like how few things went too easy for her, like the author didn’t really to harm her heroine, some of the situations were resolved quickly. But other than these two complaints, there is nothing else that I didn’t like. The brilliant death is an Italian inspired Fantasy and that’s honestly something I haven’t read before so the novelty was refreshing, intriguing and was done very well in my opinion. There is no confusion in the book about the inspiration of the story. The world building was done in a very good day, there is no information dumping in this book which is something I absolutely admire. The author gives us a very clear picture of the world without feeling like you’re being lectured in geography and history. It all felt natural and I found the world fascinating. It’s not extremely complex, it’s more straightforward but it’s linked together through myths, religion and magic and that added a very interesting aspect to it. The story in itself is sitting on your edge of your seat exciting. There is this sense of danger and urgency that never lets you relax for a moment. You get to feel the delicate situation of our heroine, you get to feel her desperation, you get to understand the frantic nature of her mission and how it’s a matter of life or death. The pace of the book translates that well and how the story progresses quickly, without losing momentum and in a smooth satisfying way. The characters in this book are pure gold. I’m little let down by the Capo, I didn’t see that much of him but I wasn’t really bothered by that cause alongside the awesome strong female protagonist, there is Cielo, another strega who can appear as both a girl or a boy and who is an ally to our protagonist in her mission. I won’t reveal a lot about the nature of their relationship but it is so good and so delicious. I loved Cielo and Teodora as individuals and I loved them together as partners and I loved how they fit together so well and how you never feel it being forced or fake. Their chemistry is sizzling and their connection is real. Understanding rustled through me, soft as leaves. It wasn’t quite the same, but I’d often felt I didn’t fit inside the boundaries of the word girl. It reminded me of a country I could happily visit, but the longer I stayed, the more I knew I couldn’t live there all the time. The representation in this book is done very well and all the conversation about gender fluidity and how we shouldn’t let other people view and expectation define how we see ourselves and diminish our worth as people. The ending of the book was absolutely powerful and delightful and it gave me everything I ever wanted. The brilliant death is a solid Standalone Fantasy book but I could see a possibility of a sequel considering the layers and complexity of the story. Either way, I’m so grateful that I stumbled on this book. You should to, I mean, stumble on it too. Life could be brilliant in so many ways, a gem with hundreds of facets. Death had no shine to it, at least none that I could see.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Madalyn (Novel Ink)

    This review originally appeared on Novel Ink. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you probably know by now that reviews of fantasy books from me are few and far between these days. As my reading tastes have changed over the past couple years, I’ve slowly gravitated away from fantasy, and it takes a special book to make me want to pick up the genre. The Brilli This review originally appeared on Novel Ink. I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you probably know by now that reviews of fantasy books from me are few and far between these days. As my reading tastes have changed over the past couple years, I’ve slowly gravitated away from fantasy, and it takes a special book to make me want to pick up the genre. The Brilliant Death was that kind of book. I fell in love with Amy Rose Capetta’s writing after reading Echo After Echo last year and was eagerly anticipating this follow-up, and it did not disappoint. In The Brilliant Death, we follow Teodora, the daughter of one of the most powerful mafia families in Vinalia. However, not even her father knows of her magical abilities– which she has been using for years to quietly take down the Di Sangro family’s enemies. The book begins with Teo’s father, along with all of the other heads of the Five Families who hold power in Vinalia, being poisoned by the land’s new ruler, the Capo. Teo sets off for the capital in search of an antidote for her father and of some answers as to what the heck is happening in Vinalia. I was utterly enchanted by the world of The Brilliant Death. The setting is perfectly described, and it’s easy to see the Italian influence in the descriptions of the art, the food, the politics, the church, and, of course, in the magic. The magic system is one of the most unique ones I’ve ever read; it involves people called streghe (singular: strega… which actually means “witch” in Italian!) who have specific magical abilities. Not all of them have the same ability, but the magic functions in a similar way no matter what form it takes. Our main character, for example, can change other people into objects. We also learn, along with Teo, that when a strega dies, their abilities transfer to others. This has led to a rise in streghe killing other streghe in order to gain more power. The magic almost felt like a character in and of itself; it was always present and even spoke at times. It was well-crafted and made sense while still feeling whimsical. Also, I tend to gravitate toward and enjoy political fantasies, and The Brilliant Death blended magic and politics perfectly. There’s lots of scheming, plots, and intrigue that keep you on your toes the entire book. It also served to make the world feel all the more atmospheric, and the politics definitely upped the stakes of the story. There’s a lot of discussion on how trapped and stifled Teo feels as a daughter in a world that favors sons. She has to contend with these attitudes coming from both her family (specifically her father and brothers) as well as from the outside world. The men in Teo’s life constantly underestimate her, and, well, that never works out too well for them in the end. The Brilliant Death challenges the cishetero patriarchy at every turn, and I was here for it. Which brings me to my other favorite part… the love interest!!! Cielo, another strega who has the ability to change their own form, becomes Teo’s magic tutor, and the two have to manage their budding romance with, you know, saving the world. Cielo is a genderfluid strega who often shifts forms and uses both he/him and she/her pronouns throughout the novel. I’m 100% in love with them, tbh. They’re exactly the kind of witty love interest I think readers will swoon over. I loved reading their interactions with Teo! Their romance made my heart so happy. Also, I thought the way gender was explored in The Brilliant Death was wonderful– I’m a cis woman, so take my opinions with a grain of salt, but I thought the discussion was excellent. As always, Amy Rose Capetta’s stunning prose is another standout element of this book. Her writing is so lyrical and is perfectly suited to this queer, magical fantasy story. Overall, if you’re looking for a unique YA fantasy read this fall, I can’t recommend The Brilliant Death highly enough! Whether you’re a seasoned or skeptical reader of fantasy, I think this story will enchant pretty much everyone.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Meigan

    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.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sara (A Gingerly Review)

    2.5 stars I feel I will be the minority with this book because I felt bored while going through it. There were a lot of paragraphs/chapters/scenes that felt drawn out for no real reason. I get the magic side of the story but it did nothing to wow me. Womp womp.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tirzah Price

    Brilliant and humorous and adventurous. Your new favorite fantasy novel. Also, hella queer.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

    ***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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kassie

    The ending felt a little rushed or messy, and a little too open ended in my opinion. However, I LOVED SO MUCH OF THIS BOOK 😍😍 i loved how Any Rose Capetta decided to talk about the difference between men and women and their “places” and it just ugh, so good.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kath (Read Forevermore)

    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 / 5 The 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 / 5 The 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. — writing Such 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! — characters Gender 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. — plot Set 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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    I would die for the characters, they were literally my favourite part of this book, the way gender was discussed with so much nuance through two genderfluid MCs was so amazing and the romance between them was VERY cute (albeit slightly underdevelopped). Other than that, i only started caring about the plot towards the end because it felt very much scattered through over half of the book. That being said I really want to know what happens next so i'm definitely going to read the next book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    autumn

    an interesting story with a really cool magic system, BEAUTIFUL writing ("thank you for slipping wonder in the pockets of my days" swoon!), and a gorgeous italian-inspired world representation: it's set in fantasy 19th (?) century so no modern day terms are used but the main character is clearly queer. i read her as cis and gay, but others have read her as nonbinary/genderfluid which i could also see - there's a couple of comments about how Teo feels stifled & uncomfortable in a 'girl's' body an interesting story with a really cool magic system, BEAUTIFUL writing ("thank you for slipping wonder in the pockets of my days" swoon!), and a gorgeous italian-inspired world representation: it's set in fantasy 19th (?) century so no modern day terms are used but the main character is clearly queer. i read her as cis and gay, but others have read her as nonbinary/genderfluid which i could also see - there's a couple of comments about how Teo feels stifled & uncomfortable in a 'girl's' body but (before i knew the author was nonbinary) i interpreted that more as referring to the strict gender roles & misogyny of the day. her love interest is genderfluid. the author is bi and nonbinary

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jane (It'sJaneLindsey)

    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.

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