Book Review: Ruined, by Amy Tintera

cv_ruinedAmy Tintera places her reader right bang in the middle of the action in her intense, adventure fantasy novel Ruined.

Ruined tells the story of Emelina Flores’ quest for revenge. Once a princess of Ruina, Em’s whole world was turned upside down when Lera invaded her country, taking away her everything. She had parents, but now they are both slaughtered, she had a home, but now it has been burnt to the ground, and she had a sister, but she has been locked up in an enemy kingdom. Hunted as one of Ruina, now all Emelina has is her thirst for revenge.

Armed with a fierce determination to make the Lera King pay, Em sneaks into her enemy’s kingdom, posing as his son’s betrothed. Possessing no magic as a useless Ruined? It won’t matter to Em as she uses her sword skills and intelligence to complete her mission, that is, if her rage-filled heart can withstand the tentative touch of an enemy prince.

Highly recommended for fans of fantasy novels such as Throne of Glass, The Winner’s Curse and Cruel Beauty. Although the plot sounds a bit cliché with the whole main character playing a role in order to infiltrate the enemy but falling in love with the enemy part, Ruined is by no means boring. In fact, it has an action-filled plotline and a story that takes place over the course of only a few days. Also, it gets into the nitty-gritty very quickly. During the first chapter, I was immediately shocked into attention. Amy Tintera introduces us to Ruined’s brutal world with a cold-blooded murder of Princess Mary by none other than the protagonist of the tale herself. Yet despite the ruthless attitude of many of the characters, including Em, we find ourselves unable to condemn them because of the merciless world they live in. Also, it sometimes adds to our curiosity and the intrigue of the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed this book with its intense action and interesting romance as two people from totally contrasting situations come together: Em with her dark world, and Cas with his mostly worry-free one. However, if I had to criticise the novel, I would say that events developed a little too quickly since Em and Cas go from not feeling anything for each other at all to suddenly being quite in love. Also, the characters could have been developed more so we grow a stronger attachment to them. But as a whole, a wickedly good start to an awesome trilogy. Looking forward to finding out what becomes of Em and Cas in the next instalment.

Reviewed by Elinor Wang
A & U Reading Ambassador

Ruined
by Amy Tintera
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760290641

Book Review: The One-in-a-million Boy, by Monica Wood

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_one-in-a-milllion_boyThere are many books that deal with themes of love, guilt, friendship, prejudice and redemption. They don’t usually break your heart a little bit by page 13.

The One-in-a-million Boy tells the stories of Ona Vitkus, an aged divorcee, and the characters who come into her life. A Lithuanian migrant, she is long settled in Portland, Maine, USA, and strikes up an unexpected friendship with an 11-year old boy. She starts to tell him her life story, and her past is interwoven with her present as she navigates the ghosts that her stories have raised and the increasingly-complicated here-and-now

Monica Wood slowly, slowly reveals the key elements of the plot; but the pace is never slow, which might seem like a contradiction. Little things start to make sense, the more you know about the various characters, and you develop sympathy and understanding for the characters as the plot builds.

It’s hard to talk further about the plot or the characters without revealing too much. The story is at once deeply sad and uplifting, gentle and yet compelling. I’m really glad I read it, and sorry that it’s finished. And I will be remembering to appreciate birdsong, particularly the dawn chorus. You’ll have to read the book to find out why.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore

The One-in-a-million Boy
by Monica Wood
Published by Headline Review (Hachette)
ISBN 9781472228369

Book Review: The Curiosity, by Stephen Kiernan

I picked this book up for its cover quote fromcv_the_curiosity Justin Cronin (The Passage), and I’m pleased I did. It has been awhile since I read a book that engulfed me as much as The Curiosity did. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it, trying to guess at the main character’s next moves.

The Curiosity is told from several points of view. Dr Kate Philo is the lead scientist on an Arctic expedition. This expedition is bankrolled by the arrogant genius scientist Erastus Carthage, and the aim is to find ‘Hard Ice’, a type of ice that has previously yielded animal specimens that have proven to be able to be reanimated. Also on the ship is hack science and nature journalist Daniel Dixon.

Dr Philo and her team find a man frozen in the ice. They successfully extricate him, and the Lazarus Project is born. While the morality is questioned from day one, Carthage overrides everybody to ensure that reanimation takes place, and we are introduced gradually to Judge Jeremiah Rice, who died while on an Arctic exploration over 100 years before.

This book is a love story, but without the purple prose. It is a story of wonder, a story of intrigue, and a story of morality. Can they really bring somebody back from the dead for no reason other than to see if it can be done – and what responsibility do they then have to keep him alive? What is the best way to utilise the science, and at what point can they say ‘Subject One’ will stay alive, and thus open the floodgates for the cryogenics industry to walk through?

Author Stephen Kiernan deals well with keeping his story anchored without going overboard in any direction.  Love, science and story are all well-balanced, for the most part. There were a few points that I thought should have been explored more thoroughly, particularly finding the judge’s living descendants – he became an instant celebrity, and the press hounded him without uncovering anything new. While we are acquainted with a possible family member, this is never explored.

I think this book is going to strike a chord with a lot of readers. It is an ably-written story with enough conspiracy theory in it to make the reader want to stay ahead of the play, while having a gently-handled love story underpinning it, and a fascinating unreliable narrator in the person of the vilified genius Carthage. I think it has several of the elements that drew people to The Da Vinci Code, but the writing is stronger.

I look forward to reading more fiction from Stephen Kiernan.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster (Booksellers NZ)

The Curiosity
by Stephen Kiernan
Published by John Murray (Hachette)
ISBN 9781848548763