Review: The Serpent and the Wings of Night by Carissa BroadbentThe Serpent and the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent
Series: Crowns of Nyaxia #1
Published by Bramble on December 5, 2023
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Received from publisher

The Hunger Games meets vampires in the first book of the bestselling Crowns of Nyaxia series by Carissa Broadbent, a heart-wrenching, epic fantasy romance of dark magic and bloodthirsty intrigue.

Human or vampire, the rules of survival are the same: never trust, never yield, and always -- always -- guard your heart.

The adopted human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king, Oraya carved her place in a world designed to kill her. Her only chance to become something more than prey is entering the Kejari: a legendary tournament held by the goddess of death herself.

But winning won't be easy, pitting Oraya against the most vicious warriors from all three vampire houses. To survive, she will be forced to make an alliance with a mysterious rival.

Everything about Raihn is dangerous. He is a ruthless vampire, an efficient killer, an enemy to her father's crown -- and her greatest competition. Yet, what terrifies Oraya most of all is that she finds herself oddly drawn to him.

But there's no room for compassion in the Kejari -- and nothing more deadly than love . . .

The Serpent and the Wings of Night is the first book in the Crowns of Nyaxia series, the bestselling TikTok sensation by Carissa Broadbent. It is followed by The Ashes and the Star-Cursed King.

As a human living in the vampire courts, Oraya’s life is under constant threat. Sure, she’s the adopted daughter of the brutal king Vincent, but vampire’s aren’t exactly known for their impulse control. The orders of their king are easily disregarded in a moment of bloodlust – a fact that Oraya knows all too well. A smart and skilled human warrior is still no match for a strong vampire…unless she has a little help from a Goddess. To win a life-changing boon from Nyaxia, Mother of Vampires, Oraya risks her life to enter the Kejari.

The Kejari is a sacred rite for vampires, a series of trials where Nyaxia’s followers fight to the death to pledge their lives to their goddess. Held once every several centuries, the Kejari draws vampires from the three kingdoms. These people have centuries of bitter conflict along political and religious lines, and Oraya will need to ally with someone if she’s going to make it through. Enter Raihn, a talented warrior from another kingdom with a sense of humour and compassion. Throw in his rugged good looks, and Oraya’s intrigued despite herself. Of course, she isn’t stupid: they may have forged a tentative alliance, but they don’t trust each other. They don’t care for one another. That would be suicide. Wouldn’t it?

The Serpent and the Wings of Night does what many fantasy romance novels cannot: it blends elements of the expected and unexpected to create a story that’s both familiar and fresh. You’ll find classic tropes like deadly tournaments, human protagonists among the supernatural, and a forbidden romance between two misunderstood loners, but the world building is surprisingly robust. Broadbent takes her time to slowly develop multiple vampire Houses with distinct cultures, magic, and bloody political history. This does have an impact on the pacing, which is decidedly slower than your average fantasy romance.

Oraya and her father Vincent's relationship is compelling. Does he want to empower her or control her? When your child is a human among vampires, what's the difference?

The story unfolds rather slowly, and the relationship between Oraya and Raihn develops even more gradually – to good effect. Once the unlikely pair finally act on their feelings, readers will be fully on board. I understood their attraction and believed in their love, and felt torn over their circumstances. Broadbent cleverly constructs the narrative so that we compare their current circumstances with those of Nyaxia and her own doomed romance, adding to the epic feeling of their love. These glimpses into Nyaxia’s mythology were some of my favourite parts of the whole story. Her journey from a minor figure in a pantheon of gods to the single most powerful Goddess in history is compelling, and there are clear echoes of that story in Oraya’s own unexpected rise in the ranks.

It’s the combination of world building and character work that makes this fantasy romance worth recommending. While the romance receives the most page-time, the father-daughter relationship between Oraya and Vincent was the most compelling. The angst DELIVERS, let me tell you. Vincent is a centuries old, brutal, and cruel vampire king who shocked his subjects when he adopted a nobody human child out of the blue. Oraya should be grateful towards him – and she is. Vincent is her father and he loves her. But he’s also manipulated her, isolated her, and emotionally abused her for his own purposes. He’s forced her to cut off the human sides of herself, hardening her heart to become “strong”. Oraya’s slow realization of these facts is painful to watch, but it’s also satisfying to see her become aware of her circumstances. Three cheers for character growth!

Although the ending wasn’t entirely surprising, there are some major bombshells dropped in the last three chapters. I’m excited to see where it all goes in the sequel, which promises to be just as angsty, bloody, and satisfying as The Serpent and the Wings of Night. Highly recommended for fantasy romance readers.