Ruined is a thrilling and fast-paced fantasy novel, written by Amy Tintera.
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 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 bride-to-be. She will lead an ambush. She will kill the king and everyone he loves, including his son.
But the closer Em gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Her hear of steel begins to soften. But with her life – and her family – on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.
There have definitely been a lot of books sitting on shelves with similar themes to this one, I’m not going to deny it. Whether you’ve read Throne of Glass, Red Queen, or any other revenge fantasy, you’ll know what to expect. And while Ruined provides us with a similar structure to these books that we’ve all read before, and quite frankly, adored, it does so in such a voice that seems original and refreshing. I’m definitely one of those people who’re drawn to novels with illustrations of a badass female on the cover holding a sword, promising me of adventure and revenge and feminist power that says goodbye to the tragic damsel-in-distress archetype by pushing them out of a window at the top of a castle. Nothing disgusts me more than seeing female characters needing to be saved by men, or growing as a person only because of a male love interest. While I do like the occasional romance and this novel definitely provides us with a sprinkling of love, by no means is it the overused goo that so many authors, unfortunately, churn out.
Honestly, nothing pairs better with a generous portion of badass-ery than sarcasm. Coupled together, this novel is unstoppable. The dialogue was definitely one of my favourite aspects of this novel. It provided most of the humour for an otherwise somewhat dark novel and the banter between characters seemed effortless. It was so amusing how two characters could be in the middle of a really intense scene and still manage to weave in a little bit of sarcasm flawlessly and without distracting from what was going on. The laugh-out-loud moments definitely contributed to what a pleasurable read this one was.
Another definite strength of this novel was the world-building. I often find it difficult to navigate around strange worlds and places I’ve never been before, especially fictional ones without contemporary settings, though that definitely wasn’t the case with Ruined. The descriptions of the type of world we we dropped into was intertwined with the action and the drama, meaning that it didn’t feel like a backstory-overload. I find that it’s often difficult for authors to find the balance between explaining everything to the reader at the very start to ensure that they hopefully don’t get lost, and not explaining the world enough because they launch straight into the action and leaving readers wandering around in the dark. However, Amy Tintera managed to find the perfect middle ground between the two and create a world that was both slightly mysterious while still providing one with a sense of clarity.
Leading on from the world-building, I also found that getting to know the races of people who lived in this new land was a simple task and didn’t leave me guessing what each group wanted or have me struggling to remember their longwinded names. The three groups we were introduced to each stood apart from one another and allowed us to gain a sense of the culture of each group. But what I loved most about this aspect was that the ‘good guys’ were never clearly defined. There were times when I wanted certain members from certain groups to be successful in what they were hoping to achieve, but there wasn’t an overall ‘good’ group or ‘evil’ group. This novel isn’t one that could be read by assigning each group to the right side or the wrong side because each group had made their mistakes and was evil and good and misunderstood by the other groups all in their unique ways. The sense of moral greyness provided us with undertones of a critique on our own society, creating an understanding in readers that nothing is ever what it appears at first glance.
Superficially, Em doesn’t seem to have much of a personality. All she seems to be is someone who is desperate to infiltrate the kingdom, for reasons that quickly become apparent. However, there’s so much to her that lies just beneath the surface and can’t be overlooked. What I loved most about her was how determined she was. Em was definitely a survivor, and someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. While she immediately starts strategising one’s death every time she enters a room, there’s a vulnerability that we eventually get to see in her; a vulnerability that she hides beneath a frown and behind a raised sword. As Ruined was written in third person, that meant that readers were also able to see Cas for who he really was, not just the person that Em sees him as. His character development is even more notable than Em’s; transforming from a somewhat aloof and indecisive person into a strong leader who is no longer afraid to stand up to his father and for what he believes in.
This fast-paced fantasy thrusts readers into the story unapologetically, leaving us to fend for ourselves in a vivid world where assassins roam the streets and princes fall in love with only the most rebellious. A kick-ass heroine, a slow-burning romance, and enough twists and turns to leave one giddy for days awaits all readers who dare to pick up this riveting novel. Now let’s discuss this one! Have you had the chance to pick up a copy yet? Are you a fan of fantasy? Have you read anything that sounds similar to this one? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!
Publication date: 1st May, 2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Australian RRP: $16.99