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Sunday, March 3, 2019

Book Review: Ruined by Amy Tintera

Ruined (Ruined #1) by Amy Tintera
Genre: Young Adult (Dystopian Romance)
Date Published: May 3, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen

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.

Ruined is the first book in the Ruined series by Amy Tintera. This book hooked me quite quickly. I enjoyed the characters, and there was always something happening. Revenge, romance... I never got bored. Sure, it was a bit predictable in areas, but there were moments that were unexpected as well. Also, don't get too attached to the characters. This author is not afraid to kill them. I'd never heard of this book or author, but it jumped out at me when I was looking for something to listen to while I worked. I'm glad I found it! Overall, I was happily, entertained by this story, and I'd like to continue reading the series as I get my hands on the other books.

Chapter One
The wheels of the carriage creaked as they rolled across the dirt road. The noise echoed through the quiet forest.

Em crouched behind a tree, tightening each finger individually around her sword. A squirrel darted across the road and disappeared into the thick brush. She couldn’t see the princess or her guards yet.

She glanced over her shoulder to find Damian hiding in a squat behind the bush, his body perfectly still. He didn’t even appear to be breathing. That was Damian—incredibly fast or incredibly still, depending on what the situation called for.

Aren was in a tree on the other side of the road from Em, precariously perched atop a branch with his sword drawn.

Both boys stared at her, waiting for her signal.

Em pressed her hand to the tree trunk and peered around it. The sun was setting behind her, and she could see wisps of her breath in the air. She shivered.

The first guard rounded the corner on his horse, easily spotted in his bright yellow-and-black coat. Yellow was the official color of Vallos, the princess’s home, but Em would have made them wear black. She would have insisted that several guards scout the area around the carriage.

Apparently the princess wasn’t that smart. Or maybe she felt safe in her own country.

Em barely remembered what safe felt like.

She shivered again, but not because of the cold. Every nerve in her body was on high alert.

The carriage rolled down the road behind the first guard, pulled by four horses. There were five guards total. One in front, two on either side, and two in back. All of them were perched on top of horses, swords dangling from their belts. The princess must have been inside the carriage.

Six to three. Em, Damian, and Aren had faced much worse odds.

The guard in front said something to one of the men behind him, and they both laughed. The spot of blue on their chests wasn’t clear from this distance, but Em knew what it was. Soldiers who had killed at least ten Ruined wore blue pins. For every ten killed, they received another pin.

The man in front had at least three.

She looked forward to wiping that smile off the guard’s face.

Em returned her attention to Damian. She barely nodded.

He stood slowly, a dagger in one hand and a sword in the other. He lifted the dagger and narrowed his eyes at his target.

The blade sailed through the air.

Em jumped up. Damian’s dagger sank into the throat of the guard at the side of the carriage; a scream ripped through the air. He toppled off his horse, and the other guards quickly dismounted, swords drawn. The horses neighed loudly, and one of them ran, hooves clomping as it disappeared into the trees.

Aren jumped from his tree and landed on top of two guards, his sword cutting through the air and finding his target.

Damian sprinted for the man trying to block the side door of the carriage. The guard’s face was twisted in horror, his fear palpable.

That left only one man—the one in front—and he was staring straight at Em. She clenched her sword tighter as she raced toward him.

He grabbed something off his back. She barely had time to process the bow before the arrow was hurtling straight for her. She darted to one side, but the arrow sliced across her left arm. She gasped at the quick shot of pain, but she didn’t have time to let it slow her down.

She broke into a run as he reached for another arrow. He aimed and she dashed out of the way, narrowly missing the second one.

Damian appeared behind him. He drove his sword into the guard’s back. The man gasped and fell to his knees.

Em whirled around to find Princess Mary jumping out of the carriage, sword in hand.

A burst of relief exploded in Em’s chest as she surveyed the princess. They had the same dark hair and olive skin. Mary had green eyes while Em’s were dark. And Mary had small, delicate features, making her pretty in a way Em never would be. But from a distance, most people wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

Em lifted her sword as Mary rushed toward her, but the princess stumbled back suddenly, pulled by an invisible force. Her fingers sprang apart, her sword clattering to the ground.

Aren stood behind Mary, his gaze fixed on her as he used his Ruined magic to keep her in place.

Em had no magic. But she was better than almost anyone with a sword.

She shook her head at Aren, and he released his hold on Mary. She didn’t need his help. Em took a small step back, allowing the princess to retrieve her sword.

She wanted to beat the princess, in every sense of the word. She wanted to see Mary’s face when she realized Em had bested her.

The anger trickled in at first, hesitant, like perhaps fear was the better emotion right now. But Em embraced the anger, let it swirl and grow until it tightened around her chest and made it hard to breathe.

Em attacked first, and Mary raised her sword to block Em’s. The princess kept watch on Damian, but Em knew neither of her friends would jump in to help again unless it was absolutely necessary. They knew she needed to do this herself.

Em lunged at Mary again, spraying dirt into the air. Mary raised her sword and Em ducked, letting the blade sail above her head. She bolted to her feet, slicing her sword across Mary’s right arm.

The princess gasped and stumbled, and Em took advantage of the moment of weakness. She launched her sword against Mary’s, knocking it out of the princess’s hand.

Em took a step forward, aiming the tip of her blade at the princess’s neck. Her hands shook, and she gripped her sword tighter. She’d imagined this part of the plan a hundred times, but she hadn’t counted on the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“Do you know who I am?” Em asked.

Mary shook her head, her chest heaving up and down.

“I believe you knew my father?” Em said. “You killed him and left his head on a stick for me to find.”

Mary pressed her lips together, her eyes darting from Em to the blade at her neck. Her mouth opened, a squeak coming out before she spoke. “I—”

The princess cut herself off and ducked, grabbing for something on her ankle. She bolted upright, a dagger in one hand. She lunged for Em.

Em dove to one side. Panic seized her chest for a moment. If Mary killed her or escaped, the entire plan would crumble.

Mary swung at her again, and Em grabbed her wrist, yanking the arm with the dagger to the sky.

With her other hand, Em drove the sword into the princess’s chest.


The blue pins hit the ground with a soft clink. Em counted as Damian and Aren ripped them off the coats of the dead Vallos guards. Nine pins total between them. Ninety Ruined killed, just by these five men.

She leaned down and scooped up the pins. The two interlocking circles symbolized the union of two countries—Lera and Vallos—in their fight against the dangerous Ruined. The sword that cut across the circles symbolized their strength.

Em dropped five pins into Aren’s hand. “Put them on your coat.”


“The Lera guard will respect you more. Actually—” She added one more. “Six. You’ll be a star.”

Aren’s mouth twisted like he’d eaten something sour, but he put the pins back on one of the coats without protest. He slipped one arm through the yellow-and-black coat, then the other. He buttoned the five gold buttons and ran his hand down the front, straightening the material.

“Do I look like a Vallos guard?” He grabbed his sword. “Wait. It’s more realistic when I swing my sword around like I have no idea how to use it. Now I look good, right?” He grinned too widely, showing off dimples on both cheeks.

She snorted. “Perfect.” She pointed to where blood dotted his dark skin above his eyebrow. “You’re bleeding.”

Aren swiped at his forehead as Em dropped the remaining three pins in Damian’s hand. “Get rid of those. We don’t want hunters finding them and getting suspicious.”

Damian slipped the pins into his pocket. “I’ll burn them with the bodies.”

Em’s gaze slid to the wagon behind him, where the princess and her guards were piled. A piece of Mary’s long dark hair stuck out from beneath the blanket at the back of the wagon, almost touching the dirt.

She looked away from the wagon. Her mother had always said that the only way to find peace was to kill everyone who threatened it. But the tight feeling in Em’s chest remained.

“I should take care of the bodies as soon as possible,” Damian said quietly.

Em nodded and turned to face Damian, then quickly focused on the ground. He had that expression, the one that made her heart squeeze painfully. It was a mix of sadness and hope and maybe even love.

He stepped forward and she wrapped her arms around him, the familiar smell of him enveloping her. He knew she wasn’t capable of returning his feelings. Not now. Revenge swelled and twisted and burned inside of her and left room for nothing else. Sometimes it would simmer down for a while, and she would think it was gone, but it would always return. She would be back in her home, her lungs filled with smoke and her eyes watering as she peered around a corner. Staring as King Salomir pulled his bloody sword out of Em’s mother’s chest. Hearing her sister’s screams as his soldiers dragged her away. Finding her father a few weeks later, after Princess Mary killed him.

Maybe when she killed the king and his family, she’d be able to feel something else. Maybe then she’d be able to look at Damian the same way he looked at her.

She tried to smile at him. A lump had formed in her throat, and the smile probably came out more like a grimace. She watched as Damian said good-bye to Aren.

“I should make it back to the Ruined camp by tomorrow evening,” Damian said, stopping next to one of the horses pulling the wagon. He glanced at Em. “Are you sure you don’t want me to tell them you’re trying to find Olivia? They should know there’s a chance their queen may return.”

Em shook her head. “Not yet. They voted you as their leader, and they need someone to depend on now. Let’s not get their hopes up yet.”

Regret flashed across Damian’s face at the word “leader.” He was a good one, despite his young age. But he only had the position because the Ruined had turned their backs on Em. She might have been heir to the throne with her mother dead and sister missing, but she was useless. Powerless. Not fit to lead, a Ruined had said when they demanded Damian take over a year ago.

“Keep them safe,” she said. “I’ll wait to hear from you.”

Damian climbed into the wagon, putting his right fist to his chest and tapping it once. The fist tap was the official Ruina salute to the queen, and something no one but Damian and Aren had ever done for her. Em blinked away tears.

She lifted her hand, waving good-bye, and Damian did the same. The Ruined marks on his hand and wrist were visible, a reminder of why he couldn’t even consider coming with them. The marks let the world know he was a Ruined with power. Em lacked power, so she also lacked Ruined marks.

It was completely dark now, and Damian’s figure disappeared quickly, the clomping of hooves echoing through the night.

She turned back to Aren, who was pulling his collar away from his scarred neck. Aren had barely escaped the burning Ruina castle alive, and much of his upper body told the story. They also hid the story of his Ruined magic, as the fire had burned away all traces of his Ruined marks. His marks had been beautiful—white against his dark skin, the thin lines twisting together and creating spirals all over his arms and back and chest.

“Ready?” he asked quietly.

She grasped for her necklace and rubbed her thumb over the silver O. No. She’d been planning this for almost a year, but she’d never be ready.

“We should be able to make it to the Lera border by morning,” Aren said as he walked to the carriage and climbed up. He gestured behind him. “Do you want to ride in the carriage like a real Vallos princess?”

Em headed for one of the horses. “Not yet. I’ll ride a bit ahead and scout the area. I’ll get in when we approach the Lera border.” She swung one leg over the horse and settled onto the saddle. She glanced over at Aren to see her friend watching her, his head cocked to one side. “What?”

“Your mother would be proud, Em.” He bowed his head slightly at the mention of their dead queen.

“I hope so.” The words came out as a whisper. She was certain her mother would be furious that Em had allowed her younger, powerful sister to be taken by the Lera king. Em was supposed to protect Olivia, and she’d failed.

But she would make it right. She would save her sister, and kill the man who had taken her and murdered their mother.

Make people fear you, Emelina. Her mother’s words echoed in her head. Stop worrying about what you don’t have and start focusing on what you do. Make people tremble when they hear your name. Fear is your power.

Wenda Flores had never known the days when the Ruined were feared for their powers and revered as gods, but she longed for those days. She wanted nothing more than to make the humans bow down in terror.

Em lifted her head, fixing her gaze straight ahead.

No one feared Emelina Flores, the useless daughter of the most powerful queen Ruina had ever known.

But they would.

I grew up in Austin, Texas, the weird kid who spent her free time writing novels. I especially liked writing during my science and math classes, which explains why I've never been particularly good at either. I received my bachelors in Journalism from Texas A&M and my masters in film/media arts from Emerson College. Shortly after receiving those degrees and moving to Los Angeles I decided I had no interest in film or journalism. Good planning on my part, I know.

So while in the middle of being a fabulously mediocre talent agency assistant, I decided to go back to my true love, writing young adult novels. A couple years later, REBOOT, my ninth completed novel, was bought by HarperCollins. I am now a full-time writer living in Austin, TX.

To learn more about Amy Tintera and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, BookBubPinterest, and Twitter.

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