Book Talk: Avenged by Amy Tintera

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

Book Talk: Avenged by Amy TinteraAvenged by Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined #2
Published by HarperTeen on May 2, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 412
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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A war that will fuel her. A bond that will destroy her.

Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister, Olivia, from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory.

But just because Em and Olivia are out of Lera doesn’t mean they are safe. Their actions over the past year have had consequences, and they are now targets of retaliation. Olivia will destroy everyone who acts against Ruina. Em isn’t as sure.

Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. Lera may have destroyed the Ruined for decades, but Em knows that Cas is different. And now that he’s taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.

Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, she faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.

When I first read Ruined, a couple of years ago, I admittedly was not that impressed. Though I enjoyed reading the book, I had many complaints about the actual content. I was on the fence about continuing, and, if I had not downloaded the egalley of Avenged on a whim, I probably would not have, especially because I knew I would have to reread Ruined to read the latter books, because I remember nothing. You guys, sometimes that’s the best, because you can come to be a book with fresh eyes and feel quite different about it.

On my reread, I really, really enjoyed Ruined. I didn’t quite love it, but I had the best time, which was great on the heels of a series of books I largely felt meh about. The book was so much more deliciously brutal and emotionally complex than I remembered. And, it’s interesting, because I do find all of my prior criticisms quite valid, but this time I felt invested in the story and less inclined to nitpick. Though that review was fun to write, I prefer enjoying the book to writing a snarky review, so I’m thrilled about my change of heart.

Avenged proves just as much fun as its predecessor and, to my mind, entirely lacks second book syndrome. The pace is fast and the book bloody from the beginning once again. Tintera does a great job with minor twists, slightly subverting your expectations so that the book feels fresh and not like a generic fantasy.

The series is, admittedly, hampered by the main weakness of book one: some poorly named elements of world building. The fact that magical people are called the “Ruined” and call their country Ruina for what must no doubt have been a slur remains silly and distracting. The fact that the flower that is their kryptonite is actually called Weakling is also terrible. However, if you can let these things go and move on the book’s delightful. I do wish Tintera’s editor had exhorted her to change those, but it’s much too late now.

That aside, there’s so much to love in this series and little that I found to dislike. One of my favorite things is that the second book really highlights the feminist theme I found slightly lacking in book one of the series. The women in this world are getting shit done, be they good or evil; the men are predominantly followers, even the ones who are leaders of their country. The men also make many bad decisions, which they then get taken to task for, and it’s so damn satisfying.

As a key example, Cas, who we know from book one is one of the best fighters in Lera, a military culture, lacks the spirit of a leader, and he’s constantly trying to give up, one way or another, though he is now king. He gets his ass handed to him metaphorically for his privilege, expecting everything to just be handed to him and giving up the moment there is work to do, unlike Em, who he so admires.

Additional female characters are added to the cast in the form of Olivia, who appeared only at the end of book two, and Violet, important politically in Lera (Cas’ kingdom). I love both of them narratively in different ways. Violet initially looks to be there solely to serve as part of a love triangle, but I’ll tell you now that that does not happen and that what does happen is excellent.

Initially, I was thrown by the addition of Aren and Iria as narrators, but it did work with the narrative, as characters split up. I still find this tactic slightly annoying, preferring for the narration to remain consistent throughout the series unless there’s a massively compelling reason, but it largely worked. Their romance, like Cas and Em’s does leave me a bit cold however, which is, no doubt, the element keeping these from quite becoming books I love. The romances feel a bit forced, and I still want Iria and Em to be the endgame. Sorry not sorry.

However, my absolute favorite thing is the unexpected emotional arc of the book that really, really work. Olivia, you expect all through book one to be this sweet younger sister, but, as we saw when Em went to save her, Olivia is actually a psychopath out to kill all the humans. It’s clear that their mother raised them that way, and Olivia delights in torture and murder. Her own history makes her marginally sympathetic at times, but she’s also (I hope) thoroughly irredeemable. Less so but in a similar vein is Cas’ cousin Jovita, out to steal his throne. The parallel here is beautiful, though both Cas and Em need to stop Hamleting, because Olivia really will kill absolutely everyone if she’s given the chance.

These read so fast like a crack fantasy, but they have a seriously bloody heart, and it’s fantastic. Artemis, I hope Allied ties everything together and hits all the right notes.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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