This book took me by surprise because while I was expecting a dark fantasy, wow some of these scenes were pretty intense. I mean, like torture intense. It definitely was not what I expected but it was still pretty good! I originally got an e-ARC of this book wayyyy back, but then eventually bought a physical copy, which is what I will be reviewing today!
This is an honest, spoiler free review and all thoughts and feelings are my own.
Ruinsong by Julia Ember
Published: November 24. 2020
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: YA Fantasy
In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.
Her voice was her prison…
Now it’s her weapon.
In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.
But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.
First off, I loved the beginning of this book because I knew off the bat that this book was going to have some dark themes and it was going to be pretty gruesome. There are definitely moments where I’m reading and imagining what is going on and actually flinching because it just sounds so horrific.
This world has magic based on song – you don’t have to be a good singer to make the magic work, but our main character Cadence has a voice that is not only beautiful but powerful. She is the strongest mage and can hurt people by singing the proper tune. It’s kind of scary.
Then we have Remi, who’s the daughter of a noble family, and currently suffering under the Queen Elene’s rule. Elene hates the noble class after her love, who was of a noble rank, basically dumped her and humiliated her. When she took power, she wanted revenge on everyone. And poor Remi and other nobles alike have to participate in this event called the Performance, where all the nobles gather and are tortured by a mage. And if they don’t attend, it can mean almost certain death for them and their family.
That’s the starting point for this book. Now, going in, I knew this wasn’t going to be a happy book with happy characters. But we’re starting off with torture and the struggle between hurting people and living? Yeah, it gets worse.
But while this book has some gruesome moments, there is a decent plot to it. Cadence is not happy having to torture others for the Elene. And Remi doesn’t want to live her life in fear. As children, these two were friends, but after Cadence was taken in to apprentice under the Queen, and Remi was forced to flee with her family out of the palace, the two didn’t see each other for years. Once they were reunited though, things are a bit tense, and our plot moves forward.
One dislike I had for this book was the pacing. The middle was pretty slow and not much was going on. It felt like the author had to add so much filler to the story in order to make it a reasonable length, but I would have much preferred 50 pages to be cut out for a more concise story than having scenes of the same thing over and over again in order to fill up the page.
And to be honest, Cadence was an annoying character. While I understand that she grew up under a tyrannical ruler and is very traumatized from these experiences, she was just so whiny. I’m sorry, it sounds so mean to put it that way, but she was. And the whininess came more so in the second half of the book. She wants to act so high and mighty, that she only does these bad things because she’s told to, but constantly goes against what she says. And then says that she can’t do anything against Elene, even though it’s clear she’s more powerful.
Remi was a fun character though and I enjoyed her story a lot. I just wished that we got more scenes between the two, because the romance picks up very fast. To be fair, it’s clear they had crushes on each other as children, but when they are teens and meet again, there’s no love between them. And then BOOM, sudden love and attraction that seemed to come from nowhere. I’m not a fan of that.
Overall, this book was really interesting. There are definitely torture scenes and it can get a little graphic, and a bit gory, but if you can handle that, then this book was still pretty good! I just wish Cadence wasn’t so whiny and that we got a better development of the romance. Either way, definitely check out this book! I think there even might be a sequel? It’s hard to tell from the ending.
If this book sounds interesting, check out Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley! You can check out my review for more details.