Fantasy, history and romance intertwine in ‘Divine Rivals’

Jan. 18, 2024

By Amerie Diaz
Staff Writer

Rebecca Ross’ seventh novel, “Divine Rivals,” is one of the most popular young adult romantic fantasies of 2023 and for good reason.

“Divine Rivals” is a tender novel that surpasses others in the genre by delivering a plot that goes beyond the typical love story.

In this riveting book, war is brewing between mythical gods, and propaganda is rampant. Coming from a poor background, 18-year-old journalist Iris Winnow, who works at the reputable Oath Gazette, constantly strives to prove her worth. 

Iris hopes to be promoted to columnist, but no matter how hard she tries, she never meets her boss’ expectations. 

This role means everything to Iris, especially since she recently dropped out of high school. Furthermore, her brother, Forest, is fighting in the war and her mother is battling alcohol addiction.

Another person standing in the way of Iris’ goals is 19-year-old Roman Kitt, her annoyingly attractive rival. For Roman, the position means living up to his parents’ high standards and giving up his passion for studying literature. 

With tensions increasing at home, at work and in the war, Iris is more stressed than ever. To fight these feelings, she finds solace in writing to Forest using her grandmother’s special typewriter. Each night, Iris slips a letter under her closet door where it is magically sent and can only be received by a person with the same kind of typewriter.

Iris is the type of protagonist readers need more of in young adult books.

To her surprise, she discovers her letters have been mistakenly sent to the wrong recipient, a mysterious person who goes by the name Carver. Unbeknownst to Iris, her new pen pal is no stranger but instead Roman.

Ross takes time to construct the romance between Iris and Roman, which makes their transition from rivals to lovers authentic and believable. Unlike many other romance novels, their relationship is driven by gradual trust and understanding rather than physical attraction. 

The book’s two perspectives allow readers to gain  insight about the characters and their motivations. 

Iris is the type of protagonist readers need more of in young adult books. Her strength is revealed through small and subtle actions, and she does not need weapons or special powers to prove it. Every page displays her love for her family and resilience during hard times. 

While love is a central aspect of the novel, the relationships depicted in this text are not limited to romantic ones. “Divine Rivals” also explores the importance of familial bonds, both blood and chosen, and learning to love oneself. 

Aside from the romance and characters, “Divine Rivals” has a magical historical backdrop resembling World War I. While less developed than some of the book’s other elements, the historical world and mythology are unique and captivating.

For the most part, the novel’s plot is well-paced. There is a perfect balance of action-packed scenes and vulnerable moments between the characters. However, there are instances where the pacing falters. The ending, in particular, leaves off on a cliffhanger, which is interesting but rushed compared to the rest of the book.

Despite these minor shortcomings, there is a lot to love about “Divine Rivals.” It breaks the mold of traditional romance, offering a beautiful world and unforgettable characters. 

Iris and Roman’s personal and romantic journeys amidst the horrors of war make for an exceptional and fresh read. Whether you are a fan of fantasy, history or romance, place this book at the top of your reading list because it cannot be rivaled.

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