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“I don’t think you realize how strong you are, because sometimes strength isn’t swords and steel and fire, as we are so often made to believe. Sometimes it’s found in the quiet, gentle places.” – Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross
This rivals to lovers has managed to worm its way into the very top of my favorite reads so far in 2023. Even though the setting is a war-torn country with little hope to be felt as mortals are used for the immortal’s gain.
It was the characters, atmosphere, and pure magic within this book that kept me going and I still often think about it as I patiently await the second book.
After centuries of peace, the gods are warring once again. Eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow wants nothing more than to keep her family together. Her mother suffers from addiction and her brother in the war, is missing from the front lines. Iris believes her family’s best odds come from her winning the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.
To overcome her new anxieties, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door. The letter vanishes, straight into the hands of her standoffish but handsome rival at the paper, Roman Mitt. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will allow Iris all the way to the front lines of the battle: for her family, the fate of mankind, and love.
This epic rivals to lover’s fantasy novel is filled with hope, heartbreak, despair, courage, and the unparalleled power of love.
Thoughts on the Plot
Something I really enjoyed about this book was the pacing. Every move the characters made felt right. There were a couple of scenes I wish had more time given, but overall the pacing felt spot on.
I also really enjoyed the world-building. It was simple yet complex in that it wasn’t hard to grasp where or what was going on, but strong enough to hold its own compared to other fictional worlds that come off a bit all over the place.
While there is romance in this story, it builds very slowly. It takes its time in the absolute best way and sometimes feels like a slow-building subplot to the bigger historical fantasy elements of this book.
This book is also very much character driven and in the best way. The writing was fantastic and there is very little I dislike about this story.
Thoughts on the Characters
When I tell you I loved all of the characters in this book (minus the obvious villains/protagonists) I mean it. They all felt fully formed and fleshed out and made sense in their own ways and roles within the story.
Our (FMC) Iris is so incredibly relatable. I wanted to wrap her in my arms so many times throughout the book and comfort her. Being in her head is not miserable or self-deprecating, but rather a glimpse into the mind of a young woman who is dealing with trauma, and grief, and trying to find a way back to not only herself but those she loves.
And where do I even begin with (our MMC) Roman? He holds his own trauma and grief but he also communicates and treats Iris with all of the love and respect she deserves. In this house, we STAN Roman Kitt.
Aside from our two main characters, the side characters felt natural within the story too. Each character has their own thoughts, feelings, and struggles. Even those meant to be the villains of the story.
The banter and connections and just the energy you could feel buzzing off of the page between some of the characters was just, *chef’s kiss.*
A big trope in this book is chosen family and my heart aches just thinking about it. I loved it because it was done so well.
This book does end on a major cliffhanger, so potential readers beware.
While this book can be categorized as a romance, there is a tiny bit of spice. Like half a spicy pepper amount. The one spicy scene between Roman and Iris is a bit more YA than NA. It is written a bit more in innuendos, than actually writing was is happening. But it is meant to be sweet and a loss of innocence and lovers finally making love for the first time.
If it were written like ACOTAR then I would have been disappointed. IYKYK.
I genuinely don’t know what else to say, other than please read this book already. If this review hasn’t convinced you then I have not done my job. But you should still read it because it is a genuinely beautiful and heart-wrenching book.
With that being said (unsurprisingly) this book gets 5 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross?