FORMAT/INFO: The Serpent and the Wings of Night was traditionally published on December 5th, 2023 by Bramble Romance. It is 464 pages long and told in first person from Oraya’s POV. It is available in ebook, audiobook, and hardcover.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Once every hundred years, the goddess of death hosts the Kejari, a lethal competition with only one victor. The prize: a boon granted by the death goddess herself. And in the vampire kingdoms, such a boon can change the fate of houses and monarchies. It takes ruthlessness, strength, and cunning to succeed, something most humans don’t possess when compared to their vampire rulers. But then, Oraya is not most humans. Adopted at a young age by a vampire king, she’s spent most of life at the heart of a vampire court, forcing her to become a deadly warrior lest some passing vampire make her his snack. Oraya plans to use that boon to change herself forever so that she need not fear her human weakness anymore. But the one thing she didn’t plan on was falling for another competitor – and in the Kejari, only one combatant can be left standing.
The Serpent and the Wings of Night is a slow burn fantasy romance that fully earns the culmination to every relationship, from the knife-twists to the first kiss. It doesn’t rush the inevitable, but makes both Oraya and love interest Raihn work through their initial mistrust and animosity. Oraya, as the POV character, is particularly well done; both life and her adoptive father have drilled into her the need to be on guard every minute of every day, to never let anyone get close. The incremental breakdown of her walls is well-handled, as is her grappling with whether or not she can trust the man who raised her. Was her adoption a rescue or a kidnapping? Would she have had a better life as an orphan in the slums with humans or has her life been better under the protection of the vampire king, even with the dangers the palace poses to a human?
This is very much a book for fans of a good competition trope. Five challenges stand between Oraya and her prize, and her fellow competitors are as much a threat as the competition itself. I had a fun time with the deadly games and the character growth they drove. And of course, underpinning it all is the rivalries of the clans and houses as they stake their futures on having one of their own emerge as champion. The world building isn’t particularly deep or complex, but as most of the story is focused on the competition itself, it doesn’t need to be.
CONCLUSION: In short, The Serpent and the Wings of Night is the kind of balance I look for in a fantasy romance novel. There’s well-developed characters, a relationship that feels earned, and some bigger world stakes to balance out the love story. I will definitely be checking out The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King when it releases, as the world went through some monumental changes in the last few chapters, ones that are sure to mean rough times ahead for this love match.