Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.
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 a tale strong in story, with an easy flow that allows for the rapid turning of pages as we follow Em's journey to find her sister and unleash vengeance on those who murdered her parents.
Em, despite the need for revenge driving her initially and the ease with which she murders the young woman whose place she's taking, is a young woman with whom it's easy to settle in. She despises the royal family for systematically executing the Ruined and kidnapping her sister, but she easily keeps her rage in check and uses her time in the castle and with Cas wisely. She's also not so blinded by her hatred that she refuses to see the differences between Cas and his father, nor is she unable to acknowledge that neither side of their war has hands clean of blood. Her romance with Cas is thankfully insta-love free, an arranged marriage slowly shifting into a begrudging friendship and then finally genuine feelings, but we're spared the bold declarations of love that can often read as disingenuous.
While there's much to enjoy about this first installment, especially for those who just want to be entertained, many will likely take issue with the overall lack of world-building and history of the Ruined. We're given almost no backstory on Em's people other than fleeting glimpses here and there of an all-powerful queen who was a monster in the truest sense, and very little information on how the Ruined magic came to be, why no other race of people in this world possess any kind of magical abilities, or how the war between kingdoms started. Hopefully book two will delve deeper into Ruined history and highlight Em's mom in particular, as she was a special kind of nightmare who has the potential to be hugely memorable should we get to take a closer look at her.
Even with a distinct lack of history in this first book, there's still something deeply intriguing about Ruined, the crowns on both sides of the battle equally deserving of the title of villain, thereby ensuring we question who is and is not deserving of our loyalty throughout.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.