Review of Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross


Divine Rivals (Letters of Enchantment #1) by Rebecca Ross

Published on April 4, 2023 by Wednesday Books

Plot Summary for Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. 

Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. 

When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

Review of Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

It can be tough to read a heavily hyped book. Divine Rivals has been the talk of social media in the summer of 2023. The blurb  breathlessly promises that the main characters will fight for the very fate of mankind! It's the new Shadow and Bone!

My take on Divine Rivals: a romantic, inventive YA mash-up that could have used a little less mash-up and a little more character development.

Despite what the synopsis says, Divine Rivals is not really an enemies to lovers story (I feel like that description is way overused.) The main character and the love interest are workplace rivals, competing to be newspaper columnists as their city of Oath is gripped by war. 

I did really enjoy the mythological element. There are two warring gods: Dacre, god of the Underlings is warring with Enva, the Skyward goddess. The rivalry between the two of them translates to a war among mortals, a bit like the Trojan War. 

I did get a little lost in the weeds of all the backstory between the two gods. It all felt a bit like a political analogy to me and the book doesn't stint on the battlefield tragedy and loss.

There's also double rivalry: Roman and Iris and Dacre and Enva. Except that one pair of rivals falls in love and the other causes tremendous bloodshed. 

And there is a magical secret admirer element that sounds a little wacky when described. 

Both Roman and Iris have enchanted typewriters. I don't want to go into all the details but it all felt a bit Beauty and the Beast to me.

I don't know if it was the hype or the book itself (epistolary elements are not my favorite.) 

There was a LOT going on in Divine Rivals: long descriptions of the mythology, plus all those typewritten letters.  I'm hoping the second installment has more time for character development. Iris is poor and plucky and Roman is rich but secretly sensitive, and that's about all we get in this first book.

While I did like Divine Rivals, I wasn't as blown away as other readers seemed to be. A Study in Drowning was more my vibe and I felt it was equally inventive and more cohesive.