As soon as I was nearing the last 100 pages of Divine Rivals by Rebeca Ross, I couldn’t put it down. The story is powerful and emotional and brings together family, courage, war, love and heartbreak.
I was able to connect with the characters and story and feel the emotions through the writing, like the heartbreak of seeing the characters lose or struggle throughout the book but being happy that, despite those challenges, they stayed strong and kept moving forward.
An aspect of the novel that got me hooked was the world itself. It was a complex and confusing world but it made for a compelling story. It was a world of monsters and gods and people who just wanted to do the right thing but were being used as pawns.
Once the story finished, I wanted there to be more. By the end, I was smiling and internally screaming in the best way. The story shows strength within the character when they don’t realize it themselves.
This book left readers with a feeling of happiness, hope and heartbreak all at once.
Whether it was Iris’s brother who had no choice but to fight in the war or whether it was Iris and Roman, who are journalists covering the war, the setting of the story puts you in their place and makes you feel like you’re there with them on the battlefield.
You can feel how Iris is taking notes as bombs are being dropped or how close they are to disaster when Roman pushes her out of the way to save her. The writing puts you there with them.
The character growth and development adds to the fullness of the story. We start the story by just hearing from Iris and we know that her life isn’t as easy as it may seem.
Through all her trials – from writing heartbreaking letters to her brother that she never sends, to the sounds of her drunken mother as she comes home every day, to the struggles of wanting to be the best journalist she can be but not being able to reach that level – Iris remains inherently good.
Roman on the other hand, comes off as a very confident man but through it all, he is struggling with his family home. We can clearly see how hard it is for him to live up to all the expectations that his father has put onto him. Together they are like fire and ice. They are rivals but they are also pen pals.
They begin writing letters and are vulnerable and exposed in a way that they have never been before. The letters bring a safe place for both of them to express what they are most afraid of and what they want in life. This creates a better chance to get to know each of the characters and understand them. Eventually, it creates a connection between the two characters that was not expected.
The romance that was in the backbone of this novel was great. As we go deeper into this novel the themes get darker and a bright light of hope brightens the story and makes it so that the two characters had something to fight for.
Iris and Roman find out that they are not so different and realize why they continued to write to each other.
Something else that this book did well is handling hard themes within the story itself. The story touches on grief, the weight of expectations and standing up for what you believe in. The story itself is complex and hard and as the story goes on the reader can see how the war touches each person in different ways.
Iris deals with grief and pressure by running away but she never gives up hope that she will find her brother. Roman is just supposed to obey what his family says until Iris gives him something to fight for.
I was quite emotional by the end of this book. The characters, the world building and the compelling themes pulled you in. I felt like I was a part of the characters’ life and going through this journey with them.