Monday 4 December 2017

Ruined (Ruined #1), Amy Tintera

“I certainly have never had to pretend to be weak. But your mother is right. There's a benefit to being underestimated.”
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. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. To find Olivia, 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. 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.

* * *
3 / 5 

Ruined has a lot of classic fantasy tropes: warrior girl, dead parents, sisterly love, revenge plot, oppressed magical people, enemies to friends to maybe-lovers; the list goes on. This isn't necessarily bad, in fact Ruined was quite a fun read, but it's certainly nothing new. It's got some decent writing, a decent main character, and some moral nuances, but most importantly, lots of stabbing. It's definitely a better book than the synopsis suggests...

"I've seen so many people killed and never given it a second thought. I've killed. I planned to kill more. I don't think this is who I want to be"

Emelina Flores is Ruined but without the magic that her people are vilified for. The Kingdom of Lera has persecuted the Ruined for years, out of fear, out of hatred, and it culminates in the execution of Emelina's parents and the kidnapping of her younger sister, Olivia. Em has lived among the Ruined "resistance" for a while now, but she's come up with what she thinks is a master plan: to pretend to be the fiancee of Prince Casimir, heir to throne of Lera, and to open the gates to the city to the army of an allying Kingdom and get her sister back in one fell swoop. Emelina gathers her two closest soldiers, gets her blade, and sets off to carry out her (definitely terrible) plan.

Prince Casimir is trying to come to terms with himself, his father who is a bit (a lot) tyrannical, and the atrocities his country has committed, but also with the fact that the Ruined are dangerous. He's got a sharp wit on him, but he's not an annoying sass-bag, which is a great balance for any author to manage to strike. When he meets Emelina, she isn't exactly what he thought she would be - his fiancee is praised for her beauty, but this girl is a little bit savage? But you know where this story is going - violent, assassin girl with all the wrong intentions and a soldier prince with a softer side - can I make it any more obvious?

"We should ask the priest to say that at the wedding. And now we unite Casimir and Mary. They both could have done worse"

Ding, ding. They start to fall in love. Despite the obvious cliches, it's well done and sometimes sweet.  Beyond the whole betrayal thing, they have a mature, sensible relationship most of the time. The emotional impact of Em's "shall I tell him shall I not" angst is pretty muted due to the predictability - you just know what is going to happen. Thrown in to add some spice is the capture of one of Em's soldiers, one of her childhood friends who is very much in love with her (love triangle you say? Surprisingly not so). The plot was enjoyable and had a couple of twists and turns, and I enjoyed Casimir's development from a bit innocent to aware and thoughtful. 

Remarkably average was the world that Tintera has developed. There's the "oppressed magic people",  the "slightly wild militaristic people", and the "oppressing magic-hating people", and whilst Ruined has some nice moral ambiguity, the world is bland. To like this book, you really have to like Em and Casimir. 

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