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Divine Rivals Summary, Characters and Themes

“Divine Rivals” by Rebecca Ross is a young adult fantasy novel about Iris Winnow, a budding journalist who forms an unlikely connection with her rival, Roman Kitt, through anonymous letters that magically disappear under her wardrobe. 

As the ancient gods awaken and war erupts, Iris finds herself fighting not only for her family but also for love amidst the chaos. This captivating story blends historical fiction with elements of fantasy, bringing us a tale of love, loss, and the enduring power of hope in the face of war.


In a world where ancient gods have awakened to reignite their war, Iris Winnow, a young journalist in Oath, finds solace in anonymous letters exchanged with a mysterious pen pal named Carver. 

Unbeknownst to her, Carver is her rival, Roman Kitt, a fellow journalist bound by duty and an unwanted engagement. Their connection deepens through heartfelt letters, defying the censorship imposed by Oath’s chancellor.

Iris, fueled by the loss of her mother and her unwavering determination to find her brother Forest, who went missing in the war, joins the Inkridden Tribune as a war correspondent. 

She discovers that her typewriter, a magical artifact from her grandmother, bridges the distance between her and Carver.

Roman, captivated by Iris’s words and yearning for a life beyond societal expectations, breaks free from his engagement and follows Iris to Avalon Bluff, their paths converging as war correspondents. 

Amidst the perils of bombings and monstrous creatures, their bond strengthens, and Roman reveals his true identity as Carver.

Iris, initially hurt and betrayed, eventually forgives Roman, recognizing the depth of their connection. Their love blossoms amidst the chaos, culminating in a hasty wedding as Dacre’s forces close in on Avalon Bluff.

Tragedy strikes as Dacre’s attack separates Iris and Roman. Iris is whisked away by her brother Forest, who reveals his own harrowing experiences as a prisoner of war, healed and manipulated by Dacre. 

They return to Oath, leaving a devastated Roman behind.

Meanwhile, Roman is taken to the underworld by Dacre, forced to become his servant and propagandist. 

Iris grapples with grief and uncertainty in Oath, unaware of Roman’s fate, while the war rages on, leaving their love hanging in the balance.

Divine Rivals Summary


Iris Winnow

Iris, an 18-year-old aspiring journalist, is the heart of “Divine Rivals.” A complex character, she’s shaped by loss and hardship, including her mother’s alcoholism and the war that’s taken her brother. 

Despite these challenges, Iris is tenacious and resilient. She possesses a strong sense of justice and a passion for truth, which fuels her ambition to become a war correspondent and report the uncensored reality of the conflict. 

Her journey is one of growth and self-discovery, as she learns to navigate love, loss, and the harsh realities of war while staying true to her values.

Roman Kitt

Roman, a fellow journalist and Iris’s rival, initially appears as the antagonist, but his character unfolds to reveal hidden depths. 

Beneath his seemingly privileged facade lies a young man trapped by societal expectations and family obligations. He yearns for a life of passion and meaning, which he finds through his anonymous correspondence with Iris. 

Roman’s love for Iris becomes his driving force, leading him to break free from his gilded cage and embrace his true desires. 

His journey is one of transformation, as he sheds his old identity and embraces the risks of love and war.

Forest Winnow

Forest, Iris’s older brother, is a symbol of the war’s impact on young lives. He enlists to fight for Enva, driven by a sense of duty and idealism. 

However, the war changes him profoundly, leaving him physically and emotionally scarred. His return home as a changed person challenges Iris’s perceptions and forces her to confront the harsh realities of conflict. 

Forest’s story highlights the cost of war on individual lives and the lasting trauma it inflicts.

Aster Winnow

Aster, Iris’s mother, is a tragic figure battling alcoholism. 

Her addiction strains her relationship with Iris and ultimately leads to her untimely death. Despite her struggles, Aster’s love for Iris is evident, and her absence leaves a void in Iris’s life. 

Aster’s character serves as a reminder of the destructive power of addiction and the toll it takes on families.

Attie and Marisol

Attie and Marisol, fellow war correspondents and friends to Iris, provide a sense of community and support during the war. 

Their bond with Iris showcases the power of female friendship and solidarity in the face of adversity. 

Marisol’s longing for her wife, Keegan, adds a poignant layer to their relationship, highlighting the personal sacrifices made during wartime.


Keegan, a soldier and Marisol’s wife, represents the courage and resilience of those on the front lines. 

Her dedication to duty and her love for Marisol are intertwined, showcasing the complex emotions of those fighting for their loved ones and their country. 

Keegan’s presence, though brief, adds depth to Marisol’s character and underscores the human cost of war.

Dacre and Enva

Dacre and Enva, the rival gods whose conflict fuels the war, symbolize the destructive power of unchecked ambition and vengeance. 

Their actions have far-reaching consequences, affecting the lives of mortals caught in their crossfire. The gods’ presence looms over the story, serving as a constant reminder of the stakes involved and the devastating impact of their feud.


Relationships in Wartime

“Divine Rivals” explores the multifaceted impact of war on relationships, highlighting the complexities that arise amidst chaos and uncertainty. 

Iris and Roman’s initial rivalry evolves into a deep connection through their shared experiences as war correspondents. The shared danger and emotional turmoil they face create a unique bond that transcends their professional competition. 

However, war also tests their relationship, as Iris’s grief and trauma from losing Roman in Avalon Bluff create a barrier between them. 

The uncertainty of war and the physical distance imposed on them further strain their connection, forcing them to navigate the challenges of maintaining a relationship in the midst of conflict.

The novel also delves into the complexities of familial relationships in wartime. 

Iris’s strained relationship with her brother, Forest, becomes even more complicated after his capture and subsequent transformation by Dacre. His return is not the joyous reunion Iris hoped for, but rather a stark reminder of the war’s capacity to alter and divide loved ones. 

The emotional distance between them underscores the lasting effects of war on familial bonds and the difficulty of reconciliation after experiencing trauma and loss.

The Power of the Written Word

Throughout the novel, the written word serves as a powerful tool for connection, communication, and resistance. 

Iris and Roman’s anonymous letters create a space for vulnerability, honesty, and intimacy that they cannot find in their everyday lives. 

Their shared passion for writing and journalism becomes a lifeline during the war, allowing them to express their fears, hopes, and dreams in a way that transcends the limitations of spoken communication. 

The letters also become a form of resistance against the censorship imposed by Oath’s chancellor, as they provide a channel for sharing the unvarnished truth about the war and its impact on ordinary people.

The novel also emphasizes the enduring power of the written word to bridge physical distance and foster emotional connection. 

Even when Iris and Roman are separated by war and uncertainty, their letters offer solace, comfort, and hope. The written word becomes a testament to the enduring power of human connection, even in the face of adversity and loss. 

It also underscores the importance of storytelling and journalism in preserving the truth and giving voice to the voiceless in times of conflict.

Censorship and the Suppression of Truth

“Divine Rivals” explores the dangers of censorship and the suppression of truth, particularly in times of conflict. The chancellor of Oath imposes strict censorship on the media, preventing journalists like Iris and Roman from reporting the full extent of the war’s impact on the population. 

This censorship creates a false sense of security and complacency among the citizens, as they are denied access to information that could empower them to question the authorities and demand accountability. 

The novel highlights the importance of a free press in holding those in power accountable and ensuring that the public has access to accurate and unbiased information.

The suppression of truth also has personal consequences for the characters. 

Iris’s inability to report on the war’s realities leaves her feeling powerless and frustrated, fueling her desire to break free from the constraints imposed on her by the chancellor. 

Roman, too, feels the weight of censorship, as he is forced to compromise his journalistic integrity to maintain his position at the Gazette. 

The novel underscores the importance of truth-telling and the role of journalists in exposing injustice and challenging those who seek to silence dissenting voices.

Love and Loss in the Face of War

“Divine Rivals” is an exploration of love and loss amidst the backdrop of war. Iris and Roman’s relationship is a testament to the enduring power of love to blossom even in the most challenging of circumstances. Their connection deepens as they face the shared trauma and uncertainty of war, providing them with solace and strength. However, war also brings the pain of loss, as Iris experiences the heartbreak of losing Roman in Avalon Bluff. 

The novel explores the complexities of grief and the enduring impact of loss on the human heart.

The novel also touches upon the theme of sacrifice in love. 

Iris’s decision to stay in Avalon Bluff, despite the imminent danger, is a testament to her love for Roman and her unwavering belief in their connection. She is willing to risk her life for the chance to be reunited with him, even if it means facing the unknown. 

Roman, too, demonstrates his love for Iris by pursuing her despite his injuries and refusing to give up hope of finding her. The novel underscores the sacrifices people are willing to make for love and the enduring power of hope in the face of adversity.