Paperback ARC, 355 pages
Published by HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2016
Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.
But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.
In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.
Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.
Ruined is an immersive book that will render you unable to stop flipping the pages as your heart races and your palms sweat. Incorporating hilarious dialogue and vibrant, relatable characters (despite the book's fantastical circumstances!) I developed a profound fondness for Casimir's genuine and likable personality, and Emelina's fearlessness and desperation. With a focused and detailed plot, the book was a smooth and enjoyable read. The writing—although at times simplistic and lacking a bit of detail—made up for it with creativity, world-building, and the focus on our wonderful cast of characters.
I was truly impressed with Em's characterization in Ruined. Her continuous personal growth throughout the novel was undoubtedly one of my favorite aspects of it. Seeing her transition from a vengeful, calculating, and downright vicious person to someone who was softer and could even let her guard down—it was wonderful, and it made me love and understand her even more. All in all, sure, this book wasn't perfect. I had some issues with it, such as how unsurprising some of the plot twists were, or how the concepts explored weren't the most unique I've ever encountered in a young adult fantasy novel. Nevertheless, the strengths greatly outweighed the pitfalls, and I'd highly recommend picking this lovely up and giving it a whirl.
1) The dialogue was hilarious, and it gave the relationships of the characters a lot of depth and realism.
2) I steadily became attached to the characters and their personalities, which always greatly affects my enjoyment of books. When I'm reading a book and I don't love the characters, I grow nonchalant and become disinterested in the story. Thankfully, that wasn't an issue here.
3) The plot was fast-paced and exciting, and yet it never felt rushed. It also allowed the relationships of the characters to develop gradually.
4) Em definitely isn't your usual YA heroine. She is deeply flawed—especially from a moral standpoint—but I still cared and rooted for her. I completely understood her want for vengeance, and loved watching her mature and develop actual feelings for others throughout the novel.
1) The fantastical concepts in Ruined weren’t the most unique. Some of the plot twists and magical elements have certainly been done before—although they are sadly not always this well executed in other books.
The king sighed. “I suppose you could have done worse than Mary.”
“We should ask the priest to say that at the wedding,” Cas said. “And now we unite Casimir and Mary. They both could have done worse.”
"Cheese bread," he said, handing one bag to her, and another to Galo. "Every time you come to the city, you buy one. It’s a rule."
She opened the bag and peeked inside, the smell of fresh bread wafting through the air. She grabbed the bun and took a small bite. It was soft and chewy, with a hint of cheese flavor, and she took a second, bigger bite.
"It’s delicious," she said.
"I’m glad you like it. The marriage might not have worked out if you didn’t." The edges of Cas’s mouth twitched.
"How tragic. The union between Lera and Vallos destroyed over cheese bread."
"But if he kills you, I’ll never hear the end of it from these guys."
"I’ll try to avoid it."
"Good." She took a step away, returning to face Em with a smile. "I’d only be a little sad if you died."
"Only a little, huh?"
Iria held up her thumb and pointer finger, leaving a small amount of space between them. "A tiny bit."
"She was either relieved to get that off her chest, or hoping that the ground would break open and swallow her whole. The latter option was burning particularly bright at the moment."
"If you take off his blindfold, he’ll kill us all," Koldo said, shakily getting to his feet.
"Probably not," Aren said. "I’d say there’s only like a sixty percent chance I kill you all."
"Aren," Em said in a warning tone.
He let out an exaggerated sigh. "Fine. Fifty percent."