Book Review: Ruined

Ruined (Ruined #1)
Published By: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: May 1st, 2016
Page Count: 355
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Audience: Young Adult -Fantasy

Emelina Flores should be a princess. Instead she is shunned by her displaced people for her lack of magic and hunted by a neighbouring kingdom for being Ruined. Having lost her family and kingdom, she is determined to extract revenge. Posing as the Princess Mary of Vellos, betrothed of Prince Casimir, Em infiltrates the household of the King of Lera, whom she holds responsible for all she's lost. She plans to do to him what has been done to her, but she doesn't count on Cas being likeable.

Cas is not exactly thrilled about an arranged marriage, but it is what is expected of him, so he will do it. He has shown little interest in politics in the past, but the arrival of Mary changes that, and he starts to think about the war against the Ruined and the reasons behind it. 

The story is told from the  alternating viewpoints of Em and Cas. Em is a great character. I love the way she looked for potential weapons and exits in every room she entered. She summed up her opponents and weighed her chances of success in every situation. It was a nice touch. While her growing affection for Cas is quite predictable, it's no less enjoyable for that. Her struggle between staying in character and letting him see the real her was heartrending. Cas' fondness for his friend and guard Galo and difficult relationship with his parents show us how human he is, but does he share his father's views on the Ruined?

Ruined is big on characterisation and low on world building. Although this is somewhat unusual in the fantasy genre, I enjoyed the focus on the characters and their development. The three main kingdoms involved here are Lera, where the action is set, Ruina, all but destroyed by Lera and Vellos due to their magical powers, which have traditionally been used in a rather nasty way, and a race of Warriors who have their own grudge against Lera.

I enjoyed the pace of the story and the way it developed. It didn't hold many surprises, but was no less enjoyable for that. I also liked the way the issue of consummating the marriage was handled. When you read it, you'll see what I mean. The only problem I had was that it was sometimes difficult to keep track of point of view. There was one section where the Em and Mary were a little muddled and I wasn't quite sure who was referring to whom. That's a small complaint to have though, and the ending was satisfying, while leaving more than enough to be covered in a sequel.


Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war; her parents were killed and her sister was kidnapped. Even though Em is only a useless Ruined - completely lacking any magic - she is determined to get revenge.

Her plan is simple: She will infiltrate the enemy's kingdom, posing as the crown prince's betrothed. She will lead an ambush. She will kill the king and everyone he holds dear, including his son.

The closer Em gets to the prince, though, the more she questions her mission. Her rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life - and her family - on the line, love could be Em's deadliest mistake.