Avenged by Amy Tintera
Book Two of the Ruined series
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
In the sequel to Ruined, the romance of The Selection and the epic stakes of Red Queen come together in a story of revenge, adventure, and unexpected love.
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 their fight has only begun. Olivia is determined to destroy everyone who acts against Ruina, but 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. And now that Cas has 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, Em 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.
What I Liked:
I thought Ruined was great, but Avenged? Probably even better. I really didn't think I would like this book better than Ruined (mostly because I loved Ruined, but also because YA sequels tend to tank). I was pleasantly surprised! This sequel had no trace of sequel slump!
Also? Ignore those comparisons (The Selection, Red Queen). Both of those series are not really comparable to this series. And the romance in this series isn't as messy and as confusing as the romances in those two series.
Before I begin my review, everyone should check out my emoji review on Twitter! I did one for Ruined in March 2016, and there's my one for Avenged in April 2017.
I did one for Ruined so I guess I should do one for Avenged:— Alyssa Susanna (@Alyssa_Susanna) April 3, 2017
(cc: @amytintera @EpicReads) https://t.co/sq1LFoErVU
This sequel starts not too long after Ruined finished. Olivia and Em are back in Ruina with the Ruined, but it's obviously not home like it used to be. What's more, Olivia as become ruthless and cold, and enjoys killing for fun. Em is a fighter, but she's a politician. Olivia proposes a diarchy, in which Olivia and Em are equal queens of Ruina. Meanwhile, Cas is struggling to keep hold of his kingdom, with his cousin trying to take him out of the picture. He is poisoned and leaves the fortress, only to be found by Em. Olivia and the Ruined don't want Cas with them, so Cas leaves after he recovers. But betrayal follows Em, Olivia, and the Ruined, and an ally turns on them. Cas and Em both want a truce between Lera and Ruina, but everyone must consider the kingdom of Olso, and Cas's homicidal cousin Jovita. It's kill or be killed, but identifying enemies and danger might not be as easy as Cas and Em think.
From the start, this book has a tense and yet adventurous tone to it. There is constant action from all ends - with Em/Olivia, with Cas, coming from the warriors, and Olso. I'll admit that the first 10% of the book was a little slow COMPARED to the rest of the book - but none of this book is really slow. I love how the plot is both action and plotting/scheming. Both war and politics.
This book is told entirely in third-person, but limited to Em's, Olivia's, Aren's, and Cas's POV. Em and Olivia are both in the same space for the first half of the book (in Ruina), with Aren. Aren is like their second in command - he is an old friend of Em's (no, there is no love triangle there), and the second most powerful Ruined (behind Olivia). Cas, on the other hand, is in the fortress, trying to garner the support of his advisers, who are turning to his cousin Jovita with each passing day. Until, of course, he is poisoned, and flees the fortress.
I liked Em a lot in Ruined, and I liked her in this book. She has a strong sense of duty and puts her people first. At first, this irritated me slightly because I thought her sense of duty would come between her and Cas. But then I thought, would I put my happiness aside for my people's safety, if I were queen? Yes, yes I would. And THEN I thought to myself, what if things worked out such that Em wouldn't even have to put her happiness over her people...
Anyway, Em has all of my respect. She isn't Ruined like Olivia - she's useless (that's the term for a non-Ruined person of Ruined parentage), and she doesn't have the Ruined's support. But she is incredibly smart and astute, and good with tactics and strategies. She is physically strong and capable (girl can wield a sword!), but she is also intelligently strong. Em impressed me many times in this sequel. I also liked her resolve in terms of her feelings for Cas - she never wavered in her affection of him, not even when she pushed him away (briefly, and for good reason). Em is a strong and kickbutt heroine, but she is also kind and sweet (especially compared to Olivia, who is bloodthirsty and cold).
Cas is tied with Em as my favorite character of this series. Of all of the characters, he undergoes the most character development in this book. He struggles to retain hold of his kingship, and when he is poisoned, he pretty much gives up as his loyal guards and friends get him out of the fortress. When Em finds him, he is weak, defeated, and not motivated to go back. By the end of the book, he recovers his spine and plays a pivotal role in the now fully-fledged war. Cas becomes more of a king than he ever had been, at any point yet. Cas is so honorable and reasonable and kind, but he is also intelligent and fierce. He is definitely a man I'd love to have in my life.
Olivia is such an interesting character. She is ruthless and deadly, and laughs in the face of death - death brought on by her. She enjoys killing innocents and slowly torturing people, and yes, that is all kinds of messed up. Olivia is an incredibly powerful Ruined, and she knows it. We get to read from her POV throughout the book, and we can see how she thinks and her reasoning for everything. She is a bit insane and very dangerous and unhinged, but she is also a very interesting character.
I adored Aren in this book! By the way, he is not in love with Em (and Em isn't in love with him) - their relationship is strictly a long-time platonic friendship. Which, yay! Their friendship is very strong and healthy. Aren grows a lot in this book too, in good and bad ways. He is a good man, and I'm happy about the direction of his character development. I'm also happy to see him develop feelings for a certain lady (again, not Em). Him and his lady are so cute together!
Okay, I'll talk about the romance. There is NO love triangle. None. Trust me on this. You'll start to see something that might appear to be a problem for Em, but it is resolved very swiftly and efficiently. There are only feelings involved between Cas and Em. Cas and Em don't share any pagetime in the first 20% of the book, but then they are reunited (when Em finds Cas half-dead from the poison). They are adorable together; they always seem to find their back to each other. This isn't one of those sequels in which the couple spends the entire book apart. Their reunion happens fairly early in the story. Yes, they separate again, but then they reunite again, and again, and again, and basically there were enough Cas/Em scenes and interactions (romantic and non-romantic) to keep me satisfied. Their relationship gets kicked up a notch. It's all Cas and Em (neither have feelings for anyone else and have no intention of not being together). There are other romances (Aren and his lady, for example). I am a fan of those other romance!
I already talked about how I liked the story's tense and adventurous tone. The pacing is not slow but not incredibly fast, and it worked for this story. There was constantly action or some wrench in plans, or something like that. I was never bored, and I couldn't seem to read fast enough. What's more, this book's story seemed to build and build until the climax, and even then, the story kept building. Tintera does a really good job of setting up everything for the finale in book three.
Totally worth pointing out that this book is full of diverse characters! There is an LGBT couple, and many Ruined are dark-skinned, like Aren. Good on Tintera for including many variations of diverse representation, and in (what I think was) a fairly natural, non-forced way.
There is a cliffhanger, unfortunately, and it is somewhat similar to that of Ruined's. Like the ending of Ruined, it isn't horrible and crushing and heartbreaking, but it's a cliffhanger nonetheless. I am so anxious for Em, and for Aren, and Iria, and Cas! Olivia is like a ticking time bomb... I can't wait to see how everything goes down, in book three!
What I Did Not Like:
Nothing really major to complain about. Of course I would have loved less of a cliffhanger, and more Cas/Em scenes, but I don't mind the cliffhanger too much, and I have a feeling we'll get more Cas/Em scenes in book three.
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this sequel! It is even better than its predecessor - full of action, scheming, betrayal, and tender romance. So much swoon in this book (Cas/Em swoon, that is). Plus, I really liked how this book is told (Cas/Em/Aren/Olivia third-person POVs). Usually so many POVs would be annoying for me, but I think so many really works for this story, and the author employs this method of storytelling well.
Did I mention swoony tender romance and no love triangle? Because, well, yeah. Cas is kingly, book boyfriend material, y'all. Em is queen material. (She is a queen!)
4.5 stars -> rounded up to 5 stars. This is only the third book of 2017 that I've given a 5-star rating (out of 48 books read for the year so far)! I absolutely loved Ruined but I think I loved this one even more, even with a few aspects that I wasn't sure would be resolved or worked out in this book (but they were!). A job really well done by Tintera. If you were hesitant to start this series, I highly recommend you go ahead and pick up Ruined, or make this a top-priority series to binge-read in 2018, when book three publishes!
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