|Very classy cover|
Ruined is the start of a new fantasy trilogy, and I'm already excited for the next two books. If you like your fantasy laced with plenty of intrigue, romance, and revenge—I'd say, if you enjoyed Marie Rutkoski's Winner's Curse trilogy—then you'll want to check this one out.
Emelina Flores—Em—is from the war-torn kingdom of Ruina, where she is the only person in the royal family without any Ruined magic. Her sister, heir to the kingdom, has been kidnapped by the neighboring country of Lera, and the rest of her family massacred. Determined to get her revenge and find her sister, she masquerades as the betrothed of Lera's Prince Casimir, with the goal of getting close enough to lead an attack from inside the kingdom—and to kill the entire royal family. Of course, as you might guess (but not in an easy, predictable way), Cas isn't exactly the war-obsessed, bloodthirsty prince she assumed he would be, and everything gets really complicated really fast.
Observations: I really thought the world-building was effective here. I've started to truly appreciate fantasy books that keep the world itself RELATIVELY confined and simple—a few kingdoms, one or two (or no) types of magic, leaving the focus on the characters, the immediate action, and the emotional arc and making for a more robust story at the end of it. The bells and whistles are icing on the cake without distracting from the story or being confusing. Here, the Ruined magic varies but is essentially an ability to manipulate the natural world (including living creatures) at an elemental level.
But, rather than being a sort of magical Chosen One, Em is the one without magic, who must rely on her wits and natural abilities to complete her quest. It's an interesting twist, and makes her easy to relate to even in the beginning when she is revenge-obsessed and in anguish. And the romance was very satisfying because it doesn't develop arbitrarily and suddenly (ye gods, I hate that) but happens over time, slowly, under difficult but not impossible odds. Our heroes Em and Cas have to work at it, and earn each other's trust even as they are forced to break it again and again. As a reader, I found this definitely added to the book's unputdownability.
Conclusion: SO good. And a plus is that the characters populating the book are sort-of-kind-of-vaguely Latinx, not in an obtrusive way but it's nice to see epic fantasy that taps into cultures other than Anglo-Saxon-Celtic (though I certainly loves me my Celtic mythology).
I purchased my copy of this book on Amazon. You can find RUINED by Amy Tintera at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!