Kingdoms and heirs continue to clash in this political fantasy sequel to Ruined (2016).
In the previous volume, Emelina Flores, formerly “useless” princess of Ruina, freed her sister Olivia, toppled a king and queen, and helped the Olso invade Lera, but these victories fade quickly under continuous violence. Sharing regency with Olivia, Em looks for refuge for the surviving Ruined even as magic-wielding, murderous Olivia seeks revenge. Meanwhile, Casimir Gallegos, now an orphan and king of Lera, struggles to preserve his kingdom while fending off his usurping cousin, Jovita. Em and Casimir’s marriage was false, but their love remains, and other characters also long for intimacy despite the graphic bloodshed. All characters suffer for the sins of their parents and a legacy of racism—here, due to magic rather than skin color, as Em is olive-skinned, some of the magic-wielding Ruined are dark-skinned, and some Lerans are also olive-skinned brunettes. Constant skirmishes stymie reconciliation. With multiple narrators and abrupt transitions, plot progress is slow and scenes are sometimes related repetitively. Modern colloquialisms and clichés (“smiley face,” “holding pattern,” “positive spin”) clash with the faux-medieval, geographically ambiguous setting. Similarly, the steam-powered machines of the Olso conflict with the otherwise feudal political maneuvering of Lera and Ruina.
Treachery and tentative romances but no resolution; best for fervent fans of the first one. (Fantasy. 14-adult)