Reviews for Ruinsong, by Julia Ember

lyonsdenprojects's review

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


This was an enjoyable story with interesting and sweet main characters. The magic system is what I probably loved most about it though there were some holes in the world building and the ending conflict seemed a little too easy after the build up to it. However I still enjoyed the journey and would gladly read another book featuring these characters. TW: The dog is killed. I hate being surprised by that in books and movies. The reactions of Cadence redeemed the story, but I did almost put the book down. 

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caspertheghost's review against another edition

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really sweet romance and solid story for the most part, i just hate homophobia tropes in the fantasy genre.

colbybettley's review

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emotional inspiring mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


This book was so amazing and unexpected! It was extremely inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community and, mixed with magic and fantasy, created the most fascinating story. I'm hopeful that a sequel is on the horizon!

moss_the_mushroom's review against another edition

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***3.75 stars***
I did enjoy it, but it didn't really live up to my expectations. There are lots of good things about it (descriptive writing mostly) but I didn't love most bits. I think that the characters were a bit underdeveloped (particularly Remi and Cadence) and having a slow burn romance with dual perspectives is really just aggravating. The descriptive writing could have been ditched at times (mostly in Cadence's chapters when she was discussing her love life) it just made it uncomfortable to read. I think I probably could have really liked Nolan as a character, but I couldn't imagine him as anything other than a TikTok boy (that's on me though.) I really liked the ending, even though it was a VERY predictable one. I am wondering if this will be the first book to a series since it ended on a cliffhanger?
Just as a little last note: Remi and Cadence were a very sweet couple, even if the VERY SLOW BURN romance was aggravating.

nikauwu's review against another edition

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Beginning and middle was way too long and boring, very very very little buildup to the ‘climax’ or whatever that revolution was supposed to be. Very annoyed with the lack of romance, totally thought it was going to be much more wlw. The ending was cute, and there were some cute scenes, but overall I was struggling through until right towards the end.

the_scribe_owl's review against another edition

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Come see this review and more at my blog, The Scribe Owl

Thank you to Expresso Book Tours for supplying me with a review copy in exchange for a blog tour stop and honest review!

3/5 stars!

I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would! I honestly didn't have very high expectations, but this was a very entertaining read that I loved for the worldbuilding and unique magic system. I didn't really care for a couple of other elements, but I'll get to that later.

We follow Cadence, the Principal singer of a cruel queen and Remi, a viscount's daughter and member of the nobility. Cadence and other mage singers have magic in their songs that the queen exploits for her own gain. She forces Cadence to sing to torture the nobility, whom the queen hates from a slight in her past. Remi and Cadence were childhood friends, but when Remi sees what Cadence has become, she feels like she no longer knows her.

The absolute best part of this book was the magic system. I have not read a single review where the reader did not like the magic system. I love when a book has magic in music, and Ruinsong didn't disappoint! Don't think me macabre, but the scene at the beginning of the book with Cadence torturing the nobles with her song? That kind of crazy display of power is awesome. But then we didn't really get any cool crazy dark magic. The magic system is awesome, but I would have liked to see more of it.

The world was pretty basic. It was enjoyable enough, but it was bland. Just a run of the mill high fantasy world. What I did like was that the queen and the nobles were at odds. Normally the royals have the nobility in their pocket for whenever needed, but the queen literally tortured them here.

I thought Cadence was a great character. She was a bit of a morally grey character, with a good heart but a bit of a weak outlook on life. She had a character arc. Remi on the other hand... annoying, and no character arc whatsoever. Not a fan. And for the romance? There was instalove. I guess we missed them meeting and getting to know each other because they were childhood best friends, but I feel like I missed out.

The writing was fine. I normally prefer fantasy to be written in third person for more of that magical feel, but that's not really a big thing. Again, another thing that was just fine but not great. She didn't segue between different plot points very well either, but it was fine.

What I didn't like was how Julia Ember felt like she had to introduce every tiny side character, some of which didn't even get the chance to talk or do anything, by their race. And they were only white or black, nothing else. It was...weird. I don't quite know what to make of it, but I'm not a fan.

Ruinsong is marketed as a Phantom of the Opera retelling, but I didn't get that vibe at all. There were music and masks. I just don't really feel like that makes it a Phantom retelling. More of a half-abandoned attempt and a marketing ploy.

All in all, though I didn't exactly regret my read, I wouldn't recommend it. It had so much potential, but it fell flat. If you do end up reading it, I hope you have a better time than I did!

samanthapearl's review against another edition

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Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Our main characters are Cadence, a mage who is forced to sing powerful songs for the queen and Remi, a nobelwoman and Cadence's childhood friend. Throughout the story we switch between both of their perspectives. Each girl had her own personality and it was easy to distinguish who was talking in each chapter.

I absolutely loved this book! There was a perfect balance of magic, romance and thrilling suspense. This is the type of fantasy book I can just sink into like a hot bath. The imagery was absolutely fantastic and the writing was captivating. I was drawn into the book very early and remained entertained until it was over. The story is so dark and gripping I couldn't help but get lost in every page.

If you're looking for a dark, magical, LGBTQ story I would recommend giving this one a shot.

You can find this and all my other reviews at

buknerd's review against another edition

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dark fast-paced


hailandwellread's review against another edition

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Take The Phantom of the Opera and make it sapphic.

Throw in magic spun through music, a brutal tyrant, and the promise of revolution on the horizon, and you end up with Ruinsong! Dancing between Cadence, the queen’s unwilling Principal Singer, and Remi, the daughter of nobility nursing a growing hatred for the queen’s regime, Ruinsong confronts power and complacency, and what it means to truly change. Sometimes brutal and sometimes excruciatingly soft, this is a retelling full of magic in so many forms, with a bright burst of queerness along the way.

How do you reconcile an instrument of torture with one of her victims?

Easily one of my favorite things about this book is the way it builds Remi and Cadence’s relationship. Playmates in their early days, the queen’s rise to power forced them apart. Now, in one another’s orbit once more, Cadence is the queen’s favorite instrument, using her magical prowess to torture the people into subservice, if only because she fears the consequences of disobeying. Meanwhile, Remi is no longer an oblivious child, and can see the queen’s cruelty for what it is. When she is forced to bear witness to Cadence’s power as a torture device, she not only recognizes her childhood friend, but scorns her for acting as the queen’s pet.

If only it were so easy to stay apart, though.

As expected, Remi and Cadence continue to find one another, sometimes even forced to spend time together, and fresh truths come to light. The depth of the queen’s depravity and its effect on Cadence are all too clear, while the true reach of pending revolution comes closer to Remi’s life than she ever realized. I loved the way these two navigated their reconciliation with the queen’s threats always looming, but more than that, I love how Ruinsong dealt with apology and revolution. Cadence doesn’t get a free pass for obeying the queen out of fear. It explains her behavior, but she comes to understand it doesn’t excuse it. More than that, she realizes that making a worthwhile apology requires more than words. Action, decisive and unmistakable action, is critical to moving forward.

And as for revolution? Ruinsong points out that it’s not enough to flip the script, retaining power structures and simply changing who inhabits them. Transformation from the bottom up is the only way to redress old wrongs and find a future worth sharing despite past wounds. For a stand-alone book, it gets this point across quite well, and it left me impressed!

Sometimes, though, I felt a little lost.

This might be due to my personal cluelessness, though. I’ll admit that I’ve never seen The Phantom of the Opera in any of its forms, so the most I know of its plot is the summary off Wikipedia. Which I Googled after reading Ruinsong. I’m not sure if that was smart, allowing me to guess at plot twists naturally, or if it left me a little farther behind than a reader who actually knows the story’s roots. At least I can draw some parallels now that I’ve read a summary, though I’m sure I’m missing some of the details that really tie the two together.

Beyond my limited knowledge of Phantom, though, sometimes I felt like the world of Ruinsong was too big for some 360-odd pages. The hints of divine magic, the promises of other lands without magic, and even the resolution to the climax felt like they pulled in elements I had no way to prepare for. A couple bits even struck me as a bit deus ex machina, much to my frustration. Sure, I wholeheartedly enjoyed the book, but the bits and pieces of confusion arrived a little too often for me to brush off.

Ruinsong should be on your TBR.

A sapphic stand-alone with heart, it takes a classic and reshapes it into something wonderful and new. Though sometimes deeply dark (do heed the content warnings below), it’s forthright even when it hurts, and gentle when the healing begins. I hope you’ll give Cadence and Remi your time and love, and let Julia Ember’s magical new world whisk you away, just for a while.

abby_rose's review against another edition

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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.