Review: Ruined by Amy Tintera

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Ruined by Amy TinteraRuined by Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 3, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

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.

Oh, dear sweet crack book. Ruined is one of those books that I was snarking basically the whole way through but which I also really, really enjoyed reading. There were a few things I genuinely loved about it, but the writing was just weak across the board. If you’re into crack fantasy, Ruined might be your jam, but, if you’re looking for solid high fantasy, you have not found it in Ruined.

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Alright, so, obviously I have a lot of thoughts about this one or I wouldn’t be writing a full length review for it. These days pretty much only favorites get that treatment. But hey, the blogging spirit comes when it feels like it. Before I get into the snarkier bit, let’s talk about the good stuff, because there definitely were good things about this book.

My favorite thing about Ruined is that this fantasy-land, though heteronormative, isn’t homophobic. The lead relationship is cis het, but there are a couple of really casual inclusions of LGBT representation and inclusion that I really appreciated. Early on, the newly minted queen Mary (Em in disguise) dances with Iria, a warrior girl, and no one has any reaction to the two girls dancing together. This is apparently a totally normal thing in these kingdoms and holla. Also, hello crack ship. Then, later, a secondary character kisses his boyfriend before going into battle, and Cas’ reaction is “dude, you didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend! give me deets later!” So cute. Heck, maybe my crack ship will even come into being later on.

gif girls dancing

Despite being totally ready to throw over the Cas/Em ship for Cas/Iria, it’s not bad. The characterization in general isn’t great, but it’s good enough to get the job done. Cas, Em, Iria, Galo, and Aren all interest me. I really like the totally platonic friendship between Em and Aren, for one; people keep asking if they’re into each other and they’re both like omg no never. Meanwhile, Em and Cas get semi-close to banter on a regular basis. It’s not super shippy, but it’s not unshippy either for the most part. Also, I’m grateful that Tintera did not go for the super obvious love triangle that I thought was coming, because it would not have been a good one.

On the whole, I actually like the plot a good deal as well. Em has a clear goal: saving her sister, Olivia, taken by Lera and possibly some tasty vengeance as a bonus. Tintera also proved more bloodthirsty than I was expecting, which was delightful. I wasn’t really expecting to be surprised because a lot of it was pretty basic, but the ending was actually super badass, and I put the book down really wanting book two. View Spoiler »

Most of my problems with Ruined all come back to the writing, but there is one thing that kills me about the plot of the novel. Right in the first chapter, the reader is told what an ace swordswoman Em is, one of the best ever basically. In that chapter, she proceeds to get shot by an arrow and saved by one of her two male companions, who dispatched all the guards. For about three quarters of Ruined, Em never defeats a male in one on one combat. Anytime she faces a man, she either loses or someone comes in to help her with the fight. She does defeat several skilled female warriors though. Towards the end, she defeats a few nameless guards one on one, but that doesn’t really assuage my annoyance or prove a damn thing. One of my main pet peeves is when you take a heroine and say “she’s the best at this thing!” but then the love interest inevitably has to be stronger, which Cas is. He beats her in a practice fight, and then later she sees he was actually going easy on her and MY LOATHING.

gif patriarchy smash wonderwoman

From a world building perspective, everything’s a bit overly simple. I mean, the Ruined are people with magic and they’re from the kingdom Ruina. Honestly, RUINA. Ruined is obviously a slur for the people with magical powers but they named their kingdom for it? Sure. Then, there’s the Ruined kryptonite, which is a flower. Name of that flower? Weakling. I just. Those names are so incredibly bad that I’m really shocked. Also, it was kind of hard for me to understand why the Ruined just wanted to stop their genocide and get Ruina back, because it sounds like a shithole. Kill the leaders of Lera and take their lovely fertile kingdom!

Now, let’s talk about that writing. I’m really just not impressed with the prose. There are a lot of basic writing flaws. For example, Tintera defines the word warriors for the audience, for no reason whatsoever: “Em had never visited Olso, but she knew the warriors—the group of men and women who protected the country—well.” This definition makes the sentence super clunky and awkward, and, since this is a book for teens, they probably already know what a warrior is. I thought maybe it was a hitting-you-over-the-head way of saying that they also let women be warriors (woo! lady power!), but then that was revealed in the next sentence. This sort of redundancy isn’t a great sign.

gif ron swanson sigh parks

In addition to that, there are also contradictions of character that come really close together. Em alternates between being bloodthirsty and out for revenge and between being an advocate for peace. That could be done well if it were more of an internal struggle, but often she doesn’t even realize she’s contradicting herself. Em says this:

“You talk about death here as if it’s an achievement,” she spat. “Like it’s something to be celebrated.”

And then, just a bit later, without acknowledging the hypocrisy, she says this:

“I’m a monster. Is that what you want to hear? I’ve murdered people, and, if you want to know the truth, I’m not the least bit sorry. They had it coming.”

Again, I think this could have done well, but it wasn’t. Maybe this will be dealt with more as time goes on but in Ruined, Em spouted off different philosophies constantly. Yes, this is a thing she needs to deal with but wow that’s not making me feel it. Neither does the scene where we find out that Cas “loves” Em when someone says it to Em, rather than us getting to feel it with him in his third person POV. The characters themselves are kind of okay, but the writing definitely fails to get across the emotional arcs the way it’s meant to.

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Then there are the romance scenes, which really took me back. For a while in YA, there was this trend of chemistry between leads being characterized by them being metaphorically on fire, and it was very awful. Well, apparently it’s back. Enjoy some quotes.

His skin sparked and sizzled beneath her fingers. He was fire she could touch.

Her body began sending off sparks immediately, the exhaustion she’d felt a few seconds again vanishing.

His fingers burned fire across her neck.

He pushed her dress up her thigh, his fingers trailing sparks over her skin. That spark was going to catch and she was going to be consumed by flames at any moment.

Fire as a metaphor for hot chemistry is a bit obvious, but it could be done well. However, Tintera’s writing style isn’t really metaphorical at all, so then when this happens every time, I picture them like fireworks or something every damn time they touch. Also, you know what wouldn’t feel nice? FIRE BURNING ACROSS YOUR NECK. A little insensitive considered that basically all of Aren’s skin was burned in a horrible fucking fire.

gif baby i'm a firework katy perry

So yeah, I knew from the very beginning that Ruined wasn’t going to be a book that I would love, but it was such sweet crack that I couldn’t stop reading. I devoured it like a bag of chips. And now I want the sequel.

Favorite Quote:

“I hate it when people are friendly. It’s terrible.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Review: Ruined by Amy Tintera”

  1. This was the kind of book that I should dislike more, but for some reason I really loved it.

    You’ve mentioned a few things that I did not realize before and you are right about them. I really wish Em had a few moments where she could have shown those ‘excellent skills’
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