Author: Amy Tintera
Genre: YA, fantasy
Does anyone remember the dystopian craze a few years ago after the Hunger Games was published? When every single clone of The Hunger Games hiding behind a different cover was sitting on the shelves of Barnes and Nobles? AKA The Testing, Matched, Possession, etc. etc. Well, Ruined is like that except it’s the clone of better YA fantasy. It’s like my Diet Coke to your Coke. Pepsi to your Coke?
To be fair, I will say that it does start off differently than other YA fantasies. In the first few pages, we witness our main character Emmelina Flores murder someone. Pretty gutsy for a YA novel. Who has she killed? Mary, the princess of Vallos who was on her way to marry Prince Casimir, the prince of Lera to forge an alliance. Instead, Emmelina pretending to be Mary will…marry Casimir and exact revenge on the royal family because they had killed her family who so happens to be the rulers of Ruina, a kingdom with people of magical powers. While there, she will also try and lead an attack on Lera to help her people conquer Lera. You can guess what happens next when *gasp* she starts to falling for the prince??!! What a dilemma. Such original. #fakeprincessproblems
Sarcastic as I am about that synopsis, I can’t help falling for it because I’m such a sucker for fantasy action plots and star-crossed romance between two sympathetic characters. And I found…some of that here. It does have a well-paced plot with entertaining combat scenes. The characters, who are only a little more rounded than flat Stanley (more 3D?), hit the right beats and their interactions are interesting. In fact, I came to like Em and Cas. Even though they’re almost carbon copies of other YA heroes and heroines, at least, they had consistent character arcs, motivations and thought processes. Em, who can’t walk into a room without planning how to kill someone. Cas, who is a boy of few words and is way more diplomatic and slightly naive being a sheltered prince. They complemented each other well and they learn a lot from each other. Through them, Tintera explores the consequences of blindly justifying your actions and judging a people based on one individual. The romance is less than you might expect; the buildup is gradual, but it satisfied me. As for the side characters, there were almost all caricatures, you’ve got the murdering father, the nagging mother, the captain of the guard who is the best friend, the other best friend who could have been part of a love triangle but thankfully wasn’t; they were just kind of there to serve as obstacles for our main two characters.
However, average characters and only a decent plot does not drive anything more than a 3 star book especially when it’s combined with atrocious worldbuilding. Seriously, it’s almost insulting. Just because, and I quote, you show a scene with townspeople “selling goods” or servants making “pastries”, mention some vague mountains south of the castle, and include two groups of people who are LITERALLY called “warriors” and “hunters” DOES NOT mean you have anything resembling a unique or even a sub-par fantasy world. I literally do not know anything about Lera except it has a tradition called the Union Battle, the people make good pastries (what’s in them? How should I know?), and they like the color blue (Why? Beats me.) And, guess what, Lera is actually the kingdom with the MOST worldbuilding. You can imagine what I know about the other 3 kingdoms that exist in this world. That’s right, nothing except their funny names. The world is basically like the cardboard castle you see at kids’ parties. Poke at it and it all comes toppling down.
I’m also honestly still confused at what Ruina powers are. Someone can squeeze windpipes and that’s all I know..The Ruina would not have powers at all and I wouldn’t have noticed.
And despite all that, will I read the sequel? Yes. (It does end on a slight cliffhanger.) Did I regret my time reading it? Nope. Bring this to the beach this summer. You’ll have fun but nothing more than that.
Have you read this book yet? What are some things that have disappointed you about YA fantasy lately? Have you read the Reboot duology yet?