Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister Olivia from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory.
But their fight has only begun. Olivia is determined to destroy everyone who acts against Ruina, but Em isn’t as sure. Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. And now that Cas has taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.
Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, Em faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.
Ruined should probably titled ‘Teenagers run the world’ because it sure seemed like it. Em and Olivia are trying to build back Ruina, and hoping to do so without having much to do with Oslo. However, in this new game of shifted alliances, Oslo has become a powerful threat, Cas has been undermined by his cousin Jovita (who wants to rule), and Olivia has shared powers with Em in a diarchy. Em is a little worried about Olivia, because her year of captivity has rendered her unstable and in a murderous rage. Like, kill-every-enemy-in-sight rage, and though Em understands her, she also doesn’t know how to handle her in this delicate world of diplomacy and alliances.
What I like most about this series is that there is no clear evil party. All sides have been wronged and all sides have done something bad. The Ruined had enslaved and killed humans centuries ago, now the humans are returning the favor by killing them out of fear. Even among the POV characters, there is a lot of hatred and forgiveness both going around. This morally grey plot is interesting because it runs solely on character motivations, then. What do they want and what are they willing to give up to get it?
The magic part of the series has really not been clear in Ruined, but in Avenged we get to see more in Aren’s POV, and his developing powers. He was second-most powerful before, but his training with Olivia and relationship with Iria starts to unlock something powerful in him, too. Olivia’s POV is quite interesting – she is like a child, but with the fury and potential of a villain. Her new way to access the magic may have some interesting implications and I’m eager to see how that pans out.
In all, it is a good sequel, but I wish I felt more connected with the characters.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.
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