The Brilliant Death Book Review
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta follows a teenage protagonist named Teodora DiSangro or Teo. She’s from one of the 5 powerful families of Vinalia, which is something like “fantasy Italy.” Teo has the power of transformation which she uses to transform her family’s enemies into objects. But she has to hide her powers to avoid being killed by the church.
The leaders of the five families are poisoned via letter by the Capo or the leader of Vinalia. Her father lies dying in need of an antidote, and the Capo’s letter summons the heir of the Di Sangro family to meet with him. Teodora must go on a journey to the Palazza. But as a female, she won’t be viewed as a proper heir. Cielo, the shapeshifting strega she met along the road can help her learn how to transform into a boy.
Teo herself goes through quite a character arc, including discovering her gender fluidity. I did feel like she was sometimes difficult to like because she was often morally questionable. However, I could understand her actions because everything she did was for her family and she is young, so she’s able to justify it a bit.
One other issue I had with it is that the love story part of it was not that well developed. I could tell from the beginning of The Brilliant Death that Teodora was attracted to Cielo and that that the pairing was endgame. But I don’t really understand why they like each other’s personalities that much. Their coupling just seems like a convenient plot point.
Still, this the first book that I’ve really felt immersed in for a long time. This is due to Cappetta’s fantastic worldbuilding Vinalia. I’ve never read a book set in a fantasy version of Italy before. I think this book could be particularly valuable to teen queer readers, who want to see themselves represented in fiction, as Teo and her partner Cielo are both genderfluid and bisexual. I’d certainly recommend it as an entertaining LGBTQ+ YA fantasy.