Emelina Flores’ home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. Her people have been persecuted. She lacks Ruined power. And worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ murders and watched as her sister, Olivia, heir to the Ruina throne, was kidnapped.
With nothing else to lose, Em infiltrates Lera’s royal family under the guise of Prince Casmir’s betrothed. If anyone in Lera finds out who she really is, she’ll be executed on the spot. But it’s Em’s only chance for revenge and to salvage both her kingdom and family.
I really enjoyed this book and thought it had everything, except a stupid map. You’re probably like, why are you so upset about there being no map. And honestly, when I opened the book and saw there wasn’t a map on those first couple of pages I wasn’t all that upset, most of the time I just kind of skip over the map in fantasy or dystopian books. But, as I started reading and they were referencing the different kingdoms in this book, I had trouble figuring out exactly how they bordered and what the continent looked like. I would’ve liked to been able to flip back to a map to get my bearings.
Okay, now that I’m done ranting about the map, let me move onto the actual writing of the book. Ruined was told in a third- person POV that switches between Cas and Em. I didn’t expect this book to be third person, only because I feel like similar young adult fantasies are told in first, but the writing was strong and I was pretty close to the characters so it worked.
Both Cas and Em are royalty of warring kingdoms, and I found them to be pretty naive about their families and their ruling. As the story goes on though, they become more disillusioned, more so Cas I feel like. I’m hoping Em will have her turn in the next book. I liked this. It showed the change in both characters, their willingness to listen, and how they have their own mind.
I thought Cas’ change was great, but I probably would’ve loved him anyway because his personality is so adorable. Cas is quiet, a little awkward, and makes those around him uncomfortable with his awkwardness. They’re not traits you see in a lot of prince characters, and it’s great. And then, once someone makes the effort to get past his awkwardness, he’s actually really smart and kind, with a wry sense of humor. He’s like perfect. Every time he was on the page I was smiling.
Then there’s Em. She’s such a force. Being a Ruined Princess without magical powers has turned her into a fierce warrior instead. But she also likes to be girly and wear pretty dresses, and I just love when girls in books aren’t forced to be one or the other. Tough or feminine. Like no. She’s just able to be strong and vocal and calculating, but vulnerable and loving and confused and I loved it because it’s real.
The romance is an aspect of the book I wasn’t overwhelmed with, but that was probably a good thing. I’m not shipping Em and Cas as hard as Feyre and Rhys or anything, but one has to admire and love how they seem to balance each other out. Just each other’s presence and personality gives them comfort and strength it seems, which again feels real and just beautiful. And they totally respect each other, Cas knows that Em is badass and knows she’s the only one who decides what she can and can’t do. Of course, their relationship is complicated and there are complicated emotions involved, and I think they’re written and explored really well.
Something I will critique is the source of magic in this book. Essentially, Ruined are from Ruina and have powers and no-one else in any of the other kingdoms and that is why they are being persecuted by the land of Lera. But I didn’t understand exactly what their powers are, like they all have different ones I think, but I’m not sure. They could control peoples’ bodies and break their bones I know. I just don’t know. And also they have marks from it, like tattoos. I just wish this was more mapped out. I think that just goes for the overall world building, yes it was a typical kingdom set up so not that hard to imagine, but like I said earlier, without a map I at first had a hard time separating kingdoms and picturing the world.
The book was paced really well though. At first, I thought the whole book was going to be Em pretending to be Mary and in Lera and then it would end with the reveal, but things happen a lot sooner than I imagined and it worked.