- Page Count: 368
- Release Date: May 3, 2016
- My Rating: 5 stars
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.
WHY AREN’T MORE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS?!
The description might sound like a lot of other YA fantasy novels (like Red Queen, Cruel Beauty, Throne of Glass, and The Orphan Queen), but it’s like this perfect mashup of all the best bits so who cares. The pacing absolutely barreled through the plot, yet did a complete job of worldbuilding and never felt like it glossed over anything important. There was seriously not a single page where I was bored… do you know how rare that is?!
So basically Prince Casimir and Emelina are caught in the middle in a pretty messy web of loyalties, ethical debates over the actions of their parents, and their eventual feelings for each other. (Let’s take a moment to appreciate the slow burn romance that works). I loved how there really is no villain and nothing is black/white. Everyone’s done something to hurt the other side, so the conflicts keeps escalating in the name of revenge and self-preservation. It’s not super deep or anything — it’s just nice to find a more believable YA fantasy plot that isn’t overly simplistic.
I genuinely LOVED all of the characters and the alternating POVs between Cas & Em. The writing lets you get a solid sense of them through their actions, observations, and what they deem to be choices instead of just describing or leaving them as an empty shell to spout dialogue. And for such a fast plot, the characters are impressively complex, flawed, diverse, and grow so much throughout just a few chapters!
Also, I super love how men and women are equal in this book without either of their identities stemming from the presence and strength (or lack thereof) of the other. Too many authors try to make their YA heroines “strong” by having them be rude to men or by emphasizing the absence of a man in the women’s achievements (which is still defining women through men). All of the characters here are strong in their own right. In this story, Olso has female warriors, Lera’s general is a woman, a prominent character is gay, and none of it’s touted as a big deal. So that’s a smaller detail in execution, but I thought it was really well done.
This was an awesome start to a YA fantasy series and I’m really excited to see where it goes!!
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC!
Check out my Q&A with the author