Review: Ruinsong by Julia Ember

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, LGBT, Romance

Date of Publication: November 24th, 2020

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Length: 368 pages

My rating: 4/5

Would you do the right thing, even if you knew it would cost you dearly? 

Ruinsong is a wonderfully original story that explores the concepts of complicity and redemption, all while set in a fascinating magical world. Cadence is gifted with corporeal magic, which comes in the form of song. She’s so talented she is scooped up by the new Queen, a harsh dictator who hates the nobles she now governs. Cadence is used from a young age to torture anyone who gets in the Queen’s way, and any defiance is met with swift and horrible punishment. This life is all Cadence knows, until she runs into Remi, her childhood friend and a noble in the Queen’s crosshairs. Cadence has to decide what she fears more, the Queen’s wrath or losing her only friend. 

I love a good fantasy novel, especially one with an interesting magical basis. Song magic is a fun concept that Julia Ember explores well. The world of Ruinsong is well built, and I appreciate that the background was explained in simple detail, with the history sprinkled throughout the story rather than all laid out at once. The plot is well paced, and the characters are nuanced and have a good development throughout the story. Julia Ember emphasizes the flaws in the characters, and how rather than simply good or evil, there are shades of grey in between. I also appreciated the romance that develops in the story, and how it plays into the character dynamics without overshadowing other aspects of the plot. The whole story was well balanced, the themes of abuse, dictatorship, complicity, and redemption were well played out, and the story never felt heavy-handed or preachy, but stayed entertaining throughout. 

I really enjoyed Ruinsong, and I would’ve been happy if it was the first book of a duology or trilogy. Currently it’s a standalone novel, but maybe someday Julia Ember will revisit this world with a different set of characters, or a continuation of Remi and Cadence. I definitely recommend this book for any lover of young adult fantasy who doesn’t have time to invest in a multi-book read. Ruinsong would make a great weekend book, not too heavy but entertaining enough to keep you busy!

Have you read Ruinsong? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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