Reviews

Ruinsong, by Julia Ember

villanellemp3's review against another edition

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dark tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.25

booklandish's review against another edition

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4.0

This was a fast paced YA fantasy, with a saphic romance that was just lovely. The magic system was super interesting and revolved around song, I wish it was more developped though, as I was fascinated! The worldbuilding was captivating, twisting some ideas around social classes and genders that was fun to think about. (For the record, I think this could have been 600 pages to develop and dig into every aspect.) The story is told from two POVs and I honestly loved both. The lush writing style served the story very well. Overall a story that will transport you.

ash24314's review

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emotional fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.75

balto's review against another edition

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4.0

3.5 rounded up.

I feel like I had a more coherent review in my head while I was reading and now that I'm done I've got nothing. This was nothing spectacular but it had an interesting world/magic system I would've liked to know more about and I zipped through reading this a lot faster than I usually take.

Biggest complaint is probably the pacing to me, in that it felt like a good portion of the book was too much of a slow build to a very fast ending. The romance felt similar in that way too, I don't think they even interacted on page for a long time, and I would have liked to see more development there before the book ended so fast. Normally I appreciate a YA standalone but this is one I would've liked to have more on just to see what happens after all the dust has settled and to see Cadence and Remi navigate a relationship after everything that happened.

laimeem's review against another edition

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dark tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character

4.25

abby_rose's review against another edition

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2.0

My biggest problem with Ruinsong is that I do not like Remi. Not even a little bit. I think it would have benefited from being just from Cadence’s perspective, with more fleshed out scenes. Remi is naïve and annoying; she knows nothing about how magic works but somehow points out that “Cadence, of course, there are spells to protect yourself. Why don’t you learn some? It can’t be that hard.” For someone who has also done nothing to stand up to the queen and has been in relative safety, she’s swift to judge Cadence and expect the worst.

The magic was cool, but I think it would have been even better with more development. I love more exploration of the other types of song magic. Why is the magic sung? What happens if you sing a song differently?

The whole world should be more developed. More explanation of the belief system. Why is such a big deal the Elene worships a different goddess? How big is this country? There was too much time angsting over what Remi thinks of Cadence and not enough time spent making their world make sense.

It seemed like the book was very rushed in regards to the time frame. It’s been, what, a month from the beginning to end, and they’re going to try to start a revolution, but Remi and Cadence can’t talk to each other and work out some issues?

Ruinsong sounded very promising but fell short for me.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

samsonian's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

EEHAJSHSHSHAHAHA THIS BOOK IS LESBIAN YEARNING IN UNDER 400 PAGES PLS LET THERE BE A SECOND BOOK 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

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willowmae's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated

4.0

frecklesandstories's review against another edition

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4.0

"These mages put too much stock in their songs. They never notice how much you can say in silence."

RIGHT SO EMBER. Begrudgingly won me over. Why begrudgingly? It started with a skinny orphan bit and a magic school. Raised some red flags for me, but it was fine it didn't ruin anything.

In a world with what I'd normally call a monarch- except it became more of a dictatorship- nobility stands below the normal person in the eyes of the ruler. And honestly? Loved that bit. 10/10 finally suffer.

This is where song heals, where song destroys. Where nobility gets married to the average person to avoid that target on their back. This is a world in which there hasn't been a male ruler in 500 years simply because, well, they ain't got the range.
It's simply good and I barely put it down. Read Ruinsong because it's good.

CW: animal death!!!, fantasy classism reversed, torture (by song), mind control(?), manipulation, probably more but these are the keys.

violetvale's review against another edition

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3.0

2.5 stars.

Her voice was her prison...


Now it's her weapon


Yes, of course, I jumped at the chance to read a “dark and lush” queer fantasy. Ruinsong is a shortish read with a morally grey protagonist. Cadence, the main character’s indecision over her fate, and the ethics of her controlled upbringing flip-flop enough to keep the plot interesting all the way through; however, I didn’t feel as if there was one pinnacle moment of action—the story plateaus and doesn’t pick back up. A new avenue of study opens up to Candace at the very end—counter spells she has been forbidden to learn—and the way it unfolds lacks momentum or proper character development. The author, Julia Ember, mentioned there wouldn’t be a sequel, and yet—the ending sets you up for one.

The world-building paints an image of a world reconstructed during a new and evil Queen’s reign. The nobles have a more conservative life view, while the mages are free to love whomever they want and are generally more liberal in their politics. Orphaned and accepted as the Queen’s principal singer protégé as a child, the political dynamic between the commoners, nobles, and the mages allow Candence to question where she stands in her loyalty with the queen, vs. what her own moral compass is telling her. The characters fall flat and there is a lot of animal death, physical violence, slight homophobia/body shaming that feels rather superfluous and therefore, unforgivable.

Inhibited by nobles, mages, and commoners, the world-building is solid and paints a clear image of a world reconstructed during a new and evil Queen’s reign. The nobles have a more conservative life view, while the mages are free to love whomever they want and are generally more liberal in their politics. Orphaned and accepted as the Queen’s Principal singer protégé as a child, the political dynamic between the commoners, nobles, and the mages allow Candence to question where she stands in her loyalty with the queen, vs. what her own moral compass is telling her.

“I can feel their hatred burning behind their eyes as acutely as I can sense a tumor. I only wanted everyone to leave me alone, to realize that what Elene had done was unforgivable. Instead, I’ve done something unforgivable to myself.”

Her performances at the opera leave the audience bloody and blistered by the songs she sings. She knows it’s wrong, but it’s better than being thrown out in the streets. Cue romantic and morally responsible love interest: Remi, a noble’s daughter. I enjoyed the sapphic romance, even though I thought the characters were lacking some chemistry on top of following an awkward iteration of the friend-to-lovers trope.

I recognized a few other tangential plugs on veganism/the wrongs of animal cruelty and lessons on loving one’s body despite size or shape. Overall, there are some good messages working through this book, representing complex binaries and how to break them down.

My rating doesn’t move higher than 2.5 stars because
SpoilerI didn’t feel as if there was one pinnacle moment of action—the story plateaus and doesn’t pick back up. A new avenue of study opens up to Candence at the very end—counter spells she has been forbidden to learn—and the way it unfolds lacks momentum or proper character development. Additionally, I noticed the author, Julia Ember, mentioned there wouldn’t be a sequel, and yet—the ending totally sets you up for one.


Overall, I'm not currently bursting at the seams to read more from Ember.