Danger, intrigue and a hell of a lot of blood are splashed across the pages of Carissa Broadbent’s gripping fantasy romance, The Serpent & the Wings of the Night.
The first entry in Broadbent’s Crowns of Nyaxia duology, The Serpent & the Wings of the Night grants more nuance than usual to vampires, casting them as something closer to the elves of high fantasy than the monstrous figures of horror novels. Rescued by the Nightborn King, Victor, as a baby, Oraya has lived every moment of her life as a sheep among wolves, the only human in a court of vampires. She’s trained herself to be deadly and to trust no one except Victor, and she yearns for the day she can shed her humanity. Luckily, a chance to do just that arrives in the form of the Kejari, an ancient tournament with an incredible prize: a chance to request anything from the goddess Nyaxia. Raihn, a new vampire to the court, offers her an alliance, which Oraya cautiously accepts. But can Raihn be trusted as he and Oraya try to survive the trials of the Kejari?
Oraya’s first-person perspective fills the pages with her suspicion, ruthlessness and loneliness. That sense of dread is balanced by the fact that Oraya is somewhat of a badass: There are fight scenes galore in this book, and it’s easy to root for Oraya as she swirls her swords against foe after foe. It’s no wonder that Victor nicknamed her “little serpent.”
Broadbent wisely allows Oraya’s walls to come down one brick at a time, especially when it comes to her interactions with Raihn. A yin-and-yang relationship slowly develops between the two as trust heals old wounds and their odds of winning the Kejari becomes more real. Broadbent uses the looming threat of a war between the vampire kingdoms to add heft, a decision which elevates the stakes of the tournament and grounds the story in a real crisis.
Fans of The Hunger Games or Red Rising will enjoy this bloody twist on the tournament trope, and just about any reader will love Oraya and Raihn’s relationship.