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.
There are a few things this book does well, and a few not so well. Let's start with the good, the world building and intense plotline. I absolutely love the world behind RUINED. The fantasy elements with the Ruined and all their many different abilities hooked me in. When you combine that with the various lands, and the court politics/dynamics and I was completely sold. Throw in the fact that the Ruined are being hunted to extinction due to fear/predjudice and the revenge plotline, you have one heck of an intense read. It was incredibly fast paced, and I was simply amazed at how much was packed into the book. I realize the main plotline is nothing new, where the heroine infiltrates an enemy kingdom to achieve xyz revenge/goal, in fact I could probably name several books with very similar plots. But somehow it still felt fresh and exciting the entire read. And that in itself is mighty impressive, to take a been there, done that plot and make it fresh and new.
Now onto the not so great, the characters/relationship development, first up the heroine. Ooooo boy is Em a blood-thirsty little hellion! I have to admit, she and this book got off to a bit of a rocky start for me. We're thrust right into things with Em killing the princess Lera in order to take her place. It was an insanely vicious place to start, and made me take a step back to push the back button on my kindle several times as I thought I had accidentally started a few chapters in rather than at the beginning. But alas, the book starts in the middle of Em committing murder. Oh it's for a good "cause" of course, if revenge/protection of your own people really constitutes a good cause. Even so, Em just generally is an overall blood-thirsty character. There were several times in the book where she'd go off on random mental tangents that where calling them violent and vicious would be an understatement. She sure holds a lot of resentment, and perhaps it's somewhat understandable, but I have to admit being in her head was a jarring at times. It's a bit hard to stay sympathetic to a character's plight when you're also thinking that she might be more than a little psychopathic.
The other not so great would be the hero/romance. Frankly I just didn't get this one at all. Cas seemed, well weak. I had a hard time getting behind him as he seemed about as strong as a limp noodle. Where Em overcompensates with violent thoughts and behaviors, he's one heck of a pushover. Talk about polar opposites, to the point where I just wasn't feeling the connection one bit. It's like the words were there, but not the feelings. I think a little balance in both their personalities would have gone a long way. And in the book's defense, by the end of RUINED, I did feel like that balance was starting to come into play as Em learned to care about more than her violent revenge, and Cas started to stand up for things he believed in. So there is hope for the next book in the romance department eventually.
As I said, there were some good things and not so great things about RUINED, but since I was completely engrossed almost from the very start, I'll call this one a win overall. I'd recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a fast paced fantasy YA, with an incredibly strong (and blood-thirsty!) heroine, and interesting world behind it all.