Ruined (Ruined #1) by Amy Tintera
Published May 1, 2016 by Allen & Unwin
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: 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.
I received Ruined by Amy Tintera unsolicited and at first I didn't want to read it; the Australian cover doesn't appeal to me, and I can be a lazy reader when it comes to fantasy - sometimes I'm just not in the mood to learn about a new world or I think it's going to be the same as every other fantasy book out there. But, I'm happy I gave Ruined a shot because it really surprised me.
The characters were the first surprise. I was expecting Emelina, or Em, to be one of those girls who goes on and on about how tough she is, but then isn't actually very strong at all, who hates on other women, and despises anything considered typically feminine. Instead she really is strong, she can defend herself but also accepts help. She's loyal, determined, and not afraid to kill. She also doesn't mind dressing up when it's expected, and finds it easy to be friends with women and men.
Prince Casimir was a great leading man. Yes, he's gone along with his father's way for so long, but he does question things, even if he hasn't actually acted on his doubts. Meeting Em spurs on this rebellious side, but he too is loyal to his family, and this is something he struggles with.
One of my favourite things to do when watching tv is to guess the plot, sometimes down to the exact words characters are about to say. When I can predict everything right in an episode, I like to joke to my boyfriend that "I wrote this episode" (this probably means I watch too much tv), so another surprising element of this story was that I couldn't predict what was coming. Each time I thought I'd figured it out, I was wrong. Tintera is not afraid to kill characters off, I was sure there'd be a love triangle, wrong! Characters you think are going to be stereotypical bad have good sides, and the good guys do bad things too.
Things were wrapped up well for the first book in a series, but with a hint of the trouble that I'm sure we'll see in book two, a book I'm very much looking forward to.
Ruined is a fantasy that stands out from the pack, with unique characters, a well built world, and a clever, fast-paced plot.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy. RRP A$16.99