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.
This is another book I decided to pick up on a whim and I have also seen reviews for Avenged, the sequel to the book.
One thing that surprised me about the book was how it started off. It puts you right in the middle of the action, with Em and her friends trying to infiltrate the enemy kingdom of Lera, by posing as the prince’s bride to be. Right of the bat you see Em kill someone in order to do so. and it surprised me how quickly she was able to do so. It establishes her as a character who has a lot of moral grayness to her.
The beginning of the book also establishes her motivation. After seeing her mother and father killed, with her sister kidnapped, she feels that she needs to do what she she needs to do in order to have revenge on those who wronged her and killed her family. It reminded me a lot of Arya from Game of Thrones.
The main plot surrounds Em pretending to be a bride-to-be of Prince Casimir or Cas, and trying to get information on the whereabouts of her sister, Olivia, and also act as a spy for Ruina. She, or course begins to fall for Cas. While it may be a bit cliched, and of course most have seen this story before. But the difference is how the story and characters are framed. The main strength is how you see Cas’ perspective, mostly due to his POV chapters, which establishes his relationship with his mother and father and how the kingdom is handled. It made Cas a more fleshed out character, rather than a plot device.
I also liked the world building and the lore. The people of Ruina have special abilities, which is why they are hated. It reminded me a lot of The Young Elites in that regards. While Em does lack the abilities that her people has, you were able to see the special abilities from the other characters. The book also puts you right in the middle of the conflict, and you learn about the world through conversations, so it didn’t feel like info dump.
I also felt while the ending was a bit rushed, I did like the ending, it was a really good page turner with a lot of great character moments for both Em and Cas. You also see how their relationship becomes more fleshed out. It wasn’t all insta-love, Em began to fall for Cas mainly because he wasn’t like his father.
In the end, I enjoyed Ruined. While yes, on the surface it does come across like YA bingo. The characters and plot make up for it. I thought it was really good and I hope to read the sequel.