Rebecca Ross is back with another fantasy duology that we’re obsessed with. Divine Rivals is a Young Adult Fantasy with a beautiful enemies-to-lovers romance. The world Ross builds feels familiar but new with its own mythology, magic, and whimsiness that is a delight-much like in A River Enchanted. The setting here is reminiscent of England during World War II, but instead of countries fighting, it is a war between gods who call upon people to fight for them. This is where the story starts.
Iris Winnow is saying goodbye to her brother, Forest, who has been called to fight for the goddess, Enva. With her brother off to war, Iris starts working at a newspaper and meets her rival, Roman C. Kitt. The two start off fighting for the same columnist job. Besides their office rivalry, they end up corresponding through magical means. Although Iris is unaware of who her magical pen pal is, Roman finds he wants to correspond with her. He gets to learn about Iris on two different levels. He is drawn to her the more he knows her in the workplace, and it grows stronger with their letters. Iris, however, is annoyed by her unfairly attractive coworker and intrigued by her pen pal.
Iris and Roman feel like solid characters on their own. Telling their story from both of their perspectives makes Divine Rivals even more enjoyable and makes them feel real. Iris learns that her dream career is not everything, but instead, her family is more important. Even if everyone she has loved has left her in some way, she still needs to fight to find her brother and leave her job to become a war correspondent in hopes of having a family again. Roman is from an upper-class family who lost his sister and has been wracked with guilt. He has to learn to not punish himself and take charge of his own story. He chooses Iris and goes to her. Even on their own personal journeys, they come crashing into each other’s lives.
As much as they needle each other, they also force each other to constantly grow. Iris is a brilliant writer whom Roman is genuinely in awe of. They light a fire under each other, fueling each other’s drive to become better writers. They are characters who have both felt the pain of grief and have lost their way at times. They understand each other and break down each other’s walls. The angst that comes with them is painful but earned and has a great payoff. (In this book, still waiting on the second for the resolution of the cliffhanger angst. But I trust Ross after A River Enchanted and A Fire Endless... Which says a lot because I don’t trust most media easily.)
Ross tells a love story amidst the harsh realities of war and being human. In Divine Rivals, Ross masterfully balances the different parts of this tale, making it difficult to put the book down. The story also features fantastic side characters that make the story richer. The relationship between Iris and Roman feels organic. Ross paints them in an intimate light while showcasing vulnerability. I have been haunted by the ending since I finished it the first time a few months ago and am very impatiently waiting for December 26th so I can devour the next book, Ruthless Vows.
Divine Rivals is now available wherever books are sold.
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