An undercover operation goes awry in this series-opening political fantasy.
Despite a rising death toll, royal families of four kingdoms continue to plot one another’s demise through martial, marital, and sometimes magical means. Eager to stop the extermination of the magic-wielding Ruined of Ruina and find her kidnapped younger sister, Olivia, the chosen Ruined heir, Emelina Flores kills Princess Mary Anselo of Vallos, assumes her identity, and weds Prince Casimir Gallegos of Lera. “Useless” Em lacks bone-crunching, viscera-splattering Ruined powers but continually plans how to kill people, using household decorations if necessary. She is aiming to extract information on Olivia’s location before killing Casimir and his family and letting the warriors of Olso attack, but budding romance stays her hand…and provides most of the plot. Em and Cas share the narrative as well as a history of overbearing, bloodthirsty parents—Em’s mother’s method for keeping the peace was “to kill everyone who threatened it”—and their gradual courtship is marked by endless misunderstandings and opportunistic slaughter. Tintera’s mix of violence and vengeance with a star-crossed-lovers story offers an olive-skinned heroine and only slightly lighter-skinned hero, abundant angst, and plentiful cinematic action sequences, if few sympathetic or developed secondary characters. Readers expecting resolution must wait for the sequels.
Standard fantasy and warfare featuring a lethal leading lady. (Fantasy. 14-18)