Amy Tintera’s new YA fantasy trilogy blends the romance of Kiera Cass’s Selection series and the epic stakes of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen in a story of revenge, adventure, and unexpected love. Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war; her parents were killed and her sister was kidnapped. Even though Em is only a useless Ruined—completely lacking any magic—she is determined to get revenge. Her plan is simple: She will infiltrate the enemy’s kingdom, posing as the crown prince’s betrothed. She will lead an ambush. She will kill the king and everything he holds dear, including his son. The closer Em gets to the prince, though, the more she questions her mission. Her rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.
I was definitely drawn in by the world and the premise of this book. I didn’t want to put it down, even when it became clear how predictable and simple the plot line was. I wanted to see if it got better, if we got twists and spirals of deceit and vengeance! We didn’t. Fortunately though, the ending is not one I predicted from the beginning, and that was a redeeming point for me. So in spite of some issues, I enjoyed reading Ruined.
The writing is rather simple. It’s strong and full of character, but it unfortunately lacks a unique voice. In the beginning there is potential for a dark, deadly tale of vengeance and retribution, and the writing hooks you. It’s engaging, especially since the story opens with Em and her two friends killing Mary and her guards. It was action packed, dark, and exhilarating. Unfortunatly, the rest of the story takes a much softer turn. If that's what you like, then this book is perfect for you!
Romance plays a huge part in this book. Once Em and the Prince meet, we follow their journey to romance, with only a few scenes including the danger and vengeance and darker plans until near the end. The romance is not instant, and it’s actually very adorable, but there’s not much connection or dimention. Cas, unfortunately, feels more like he’s there merely for romantic interest as he never spoke up until he met her, and by then he only ever repeated what she said. It didn’t seem like he thought for himself, making it hard to connect to him and the romance. He was the reason why Em lost sight of her determination and will. But he’s also the reason why she began to see things clearly, why she developed so well. It was enjoyable to read.
There were a lot of compelling discoveries and secrets that only made me want more and more, however. Especially once we met Olivia. Her character is what I expected out of Em, and it leaves immense potential for the next book to be as dark as I hoped this one would be.
Overall, Ruined is an intriguing fantasy read that, despite its flaws, had me turning pages quickly.
Amy Tintera’s RUINED features of my all-time favorite protagonists, Em. I am always on the lookout for more protagonists who aren’t very nice, whose motives are steeped in moral ambiguity, and Em is exactly that. At the beginning of the novel, she is furious and bold, driven by grief, injustice, and a lot of anger. She is layered and fierce, and her pain is almost tangible. Her growth is simply stunning, especially as she learns to see kindness once again.
Between Em’s (and the Ruined’s) quest for revenge and the enemy kingdom’s horrifying ethics, there is a lethal edge to the story that will make readers clutch the book until their fingers cramp from anxiously trying to read as quickly as possible. While the story (thankfully) doesn’t go near any Game of Thrones level of death, it’s also not afraid to kill off characters with firm purpose, with more than one dealing a strong emotional blow. With the action and life-or-death scenarios, this is an excellent pick for anyone in a reading slump or for reluctant readers.
The slow burn romance begins a touch predictably, but instead of continuing to fall into a usual pattern, it takes some swift and rewarding turns. The moment of truth between Em and Cas, the crown prince, comes sooner than expected and doesn’t wait until book two to sort some things out. However, the twist-fueled ending will still leave a mountain of questions and an intense desire for the sequel.
RUINED is a must-read for the year. The dangerous circumstances, the battles between blood, love, and justice, and the gripping intensity will, in the best way, leave the reader as the title indicates: ruined.
Em was a fierce and determined character that I really liked. She could be ruthless when needed but she cared about the people from Ruina, her people, and she was very protective of her friends and her sister. I could understand her guilt over her sister’s kidnapping even though it wasn’t her fault and her need to save her. I enjoyed her growth from being hard and closed off to learning to open up to new people. She was a character I wanted to see succeed. She worked so hard to compensate for not having any powers and it was something she had to come to accept about herself.
The character interactions were great and a lot of fun to read. The main interactions were between Em and Cas and I really enjoyed the way they went from hate when they knew nothing about each other to slowly getting to know each other, to respecting each other. I also liked the dynamic between Cas and his bodyguard, Gallo. They were more like brothers and best friends instead of prince and guard. The dynamic between Em and her friend and bodyguard Eren was equally great and both provided some lighter moments in between the action and the tension. The interactions between Em and Cas’ parents were so tension-filled that it was nerve-wracking to read.
I loved the world-building of Ruina, Lera, the Ruined power structure, the hunters who captured or killed the Ruined. It started off with action right away and with the deception stakes so high, there was never really a moment I felt like I could take a breath. There was a history of battles and distrust between the kingdoms that added to the story now and both the world-building and character growth were spread out through the book so it didn’t feel overwhelming or like an information dump. There was a lot of action, sword-fighting, close calls, twists. It was just a great reading experience. I can’t wait for the sequel.