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Reader’s Report: ‘Divine Rivals’

Hi there! My name is Ani and this is Reader’s Report, where I review a book that I’ve read recently and explain exactly how I feel about it to you lovely people.

This week’s book is “Divine Rivals” by Rebecca Ross and it was one of those books that I really didn’t expect to like as much as I did. I came across it on TikTok a while ago and people mostly advertised it as a cute little fantasy romance, but I am here to tell you that this book actually has some pretty heavy plot. Not enough to spar with books like “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” or “Fourth Wing” of course, but still plot-heavy nonetheless. 

“Divine Rivals” is a novel that centers around two 18/19 year-old journalists, Iris and Roman, who are rival co-workers fighting for the chance to write articles at the Oath Gazette, a local newspaper. These two journalists hate each other (of course) and they are constantly going head to head attempting to one-up the other. But as per usual, there is more to the story. Iris has a tendency to write letters to her brother, who is currently fighting in the war. So she writes her letters on this fancy typewriter her grandmother gave her and tucks them underneath the closet door. Somehow, the letters always disappear and in a shocking turn of events, guess who reads them? Roman Kitt. The same guy that she’s rivals with. And so, Roman Kitt is actually in love with this girl and she has absolutely no clue who’s responding to these letters, making for a very fun (and pine-worthy) plot. 

To be totally honest with you, I really thought this book was going to be some rip off of “Shadow and Bone,” since I feel like that’s the way that it’s been with most fantasy young adult novels recently. I am happy to report, however, that this book was surprisingly interesting. Which sounds really mean, but I swear it was just unexpected. 

The most impactful aspect that I really liked reading about was Iris and her journey to become a war journalist. She was a well-written character and had some emotional moments while tending to others on the front lines and also finding a way to make her writing meaningful rather than profiting from the suffering of the people she meets. It was something that made me think about the importance of news coverage in the midst of war. Although it may be necessary, it comes with a cost. 

Iris herself was also a very cool character. She was determined, emotional, tough, and was written in a way that was very human and real. I found myself comparing her to Katara from “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” possibly because I was watching the new live action as I read. Iris and Katara (from the cartoon, please don’t get me started on what they did to her in the live action) are both strong female characters with intense strength and emotional fortitude in the face of war. They are multifaceted female characters who are both emotionally mature and yet have a playfulness to them that makes you want to read more about who they are. 

Roman was also a cute character and he is probably one of the sweetest romantic interests (in a fantasy novel anyway) I’ve read about. In case you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of the whole anonymous pen pal thing. Especially when the guy knows who the girl is. It’s so good, I will defend this trope to the grave. He is a little miserable, but also you can’t really help but like him. It’s one of those situations where from Iris’ perspective, he’s this miserable little creature and then you finally get a chapter from his perspective and it’s just thirty pages of him being lovesick for Iris. As it should be.

There is a very good amount of fantasy in this novel. Not so much that I was confused every ten pages, which is a really good sign. The lore was interesting too, although I think I might need to reread in order to properly recite it back to you. Essentially, the war was being caused by these two gods, Enva and Dacre, who have some kind of problem with one another that has been going on for a very long time. One was in love with the other, or something of the sort. I’m realizing that this is really not helping my case about it being uncomplicated, but just believe me, it was not as crazy as “Six of Crows.”

Also, apparently there’s a second book! Which is a relief because the cliff hanger that this novel ends on was brutal. Like, circa 2012 “Heroes of Olympus: Mark of Athena” type of brutal. I mean not as bad, because nothing can beat Percy and Annabeth on that damn cliff. But still.

So, do I think you should read it? Yes. It’s the perfect little novel to get you back into fantasy books. Do I also think it might be a little miserable at the end? Yes. But it can’t be as miserable as studying for midterms. 

Well anyway, I’ll see you next time.

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