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When the Divine Are Dead

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A captivating YA fantasy that weaves real-world issues and surreal magical elements into one intriguing package.

When the Divine Are Dead by E.K. Barnes is a captivating magical adventure full of knuckle-gripping action and intriguing twists and turns.


Bradley comes from a powerful Romani lineage where children gain magical powers at the age of ten. While it sounds pretty cool, it’s turned out to be quite the opposite. By the age of thirteen, Bradley is a survivor, narrowly escaping multiple violent encounters. 


After the latest incident (and sudden death of his youngest brother), Bradley’s family decides to relocate. But when Bradley realizes the move is a sneaky way for his parents to get other Romani families to keep tabs on him, Bradley is frustrated that his family doesn’t trust him. And how could they? He’s a magnet for death and destruction. 


Bradley must come to terms with his violent past, what it really means to be Romani, and why his family must stick together or die trying. 


When the Divine Are Dead is exquisitely done. The writing is captivating and Bradley’s jaded voice is raw and refreshing. Readers will be hooked until the last page. The characters are well-developed and the pacing of the story kept me on edge. 


I especially liked the author’s use of real-world issues and how they were seamlessly weaved into the story. The Romani’s persecution during World War II and the cruelness of the Nazis are logically tied in with Bradley’s family history and the book’s storyline. 


Another real-world issue that was handled brilliantly was Bradley’s diabetes. The way Bradley spoke about his experience with the disease will be relatable to readers who are also diabetic or know someone who is. Diabetes was treated as a part of Bradley’s narrative, but it wasn’t his defining trait. 


Lastly, it’s important to highlight the moments of brutal violence, specifically against young children, throughout the book. Readers will either be turned off immediately—or feel reassured by the author’s well-handled, but candid take on the subject. There were times that I wished Bradley had been aged up to seventeen or eighteen. However, with the way that kids are seeing increased levels of violence in the news and the prevalence of school shootings in the US, some readers may find it refreshing that a book like this is so open about the conversation. 


When the Divine Are Dead is a captivating yet realistic take on the urban fantasy genre for young adult readers. I recommend it for older YA readers capable of handling storylines involving graphic violence and death.

Reviewed by

I'm a freelance writer, teacher, and an avid reader of picture books, middle grade, YA, sci-fi, and fantasy. When I'm not reading you can find me on my blog, www.bilinguallyyours.com, a place for Spanish teachers and bilingual families.

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About the author

E.K. is the author of YA contemporary fantasy, When the Divine Are Dead. She comes from a family of creatives. For nearly a year-and-a-half, she owned and operated Scribe Stash, a personalized subscription box service for writers. E.K. is a member of the Independent Author Network. view profile

Published on October 27, 2020

60000 words

Contains graphic explicit content ⚠️

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

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