This series needs to be read right now. The Ruined Trilogy speaks to all that the world is currently dealing with including those judged for who they are, those who judge them, and those lumped in with the judgers. Everyone works to be defined apart from what's on the outside or their connections to others but many struggle to do just that.
Let me give you a brief description of the beautiful story that this series tells.
Ruined begins by introducing the reader to Emelina Flores, a useless "Ruined." Her people (the "Ruined") have magical powers over things like the elements, humans' bodies, and the mind. She, however, lacks the power to do anything... or so people think.
A year ago, the Leran King and Vallos Princess invaded her kingdom, killed her parents, and kidnapped her sister Olivia. Since then, her people have been on the run, hunted by the Leran King and his hunters who kill every Ruined they find, no matter their crimes or lack thereof.
Now Emelina has a plan she hopes will save her people, rescue her sister, and avenge her parents. She will marry the Leran Prince in the place of the Vallos Princess, lead the Olso warriors into the kingdom to kill off the Leran government, and take her sister back! Only the Prince is not who she thought he would be and she doesn't know if she wants to be the cruel killer anymore.
Can she stop what she has set into play? And can she rescue her sister, save her people, and change Lera for good all at the same time?
The Ruined Trilogy echoes other YA fantasy trilogies like Red Queen, The Cursebreakers, and Serpent and Dove with a similar plotline and characters but what it has that the others don't is a connection to modern world issues.
The series portrays the negative results of judging someone on their race (in this case, a magical race possessing the power to kill with a look) or the actions of their family. However, it also shows the results of attempting to take out vengeance on those who judge you.
Emelina is judged (and nearly killed) by the king of Lera. At the beginning of the book, she is a victim. But as the book progresses, she turns from victim into villain. She hurts those who haven't tried to hurt her. She assumes everyone in Lera hates the Ruined and would do anything to have them killed. It is only after her plan is set into action that she realizes her mistake and must fix what she has done. Tintera shows how judging can go both ways and we must find a way to meet in the middle before lives are lost and bonds are torn beyond repair.
Though I appreciated the connections that Tintera made to today's world, I did find some issues with the books. The series did feel repetitive. I felt as though I had seen the characters before, read the story before, and had the world painted for me before. There were few details or plot twists that felt entirely original. Even the moral of the story can be found in the Serpent and Dove Series or the Red Queen Series though it felt more blatantly obvious in this one.
The bigger issues for me were the worldbuilding and the POV. Tintera's world felt all over the place. There wasn't a map in any of the three books so I had nothing to orient myself with but each time the kingdoms were referenced, it felt like I was being thrown in a new direction. I never had any idea where the character was on the map and constantly felt like a character was supposed to go East to Olso or South to Ruina when Tintera was telling me that they were traveling West or North. It felt like the Kingdoms were always on the move. To make matters worse, there was at least one reference to a city by the wrong name (in the third book the wrong city was mentioned). I was totally confused and maybe it was because the author was too?
Worse was the POV.
At present, I am reading Noble's Book of Writing Blunders (and How to Avoid Them). One of these blunders involves POV. Noble describes how one shouldn't mess with the point of view. "Don't change between points of view," he says.
Essentially, the chapter discusses the way a point of view (assuming it isn't third person omniscient) helps the reader to get to know the character whose mind they are entering. In a third-person POV ("he did this" "he thought that"), you (the reader) are able to see the things which that person thinks though the story isn't told from their POV in particular. In third person, the reader is unable to enter a scene or area where the character is not present and only one character's thoughts are explored. First-person ("I did this" "I thought that") involves the character narrating everything for the reader and only that which the character can observe for themself can be expressed.
The Ruined Trilogy is in third-person. My issue was with the way the author skips between characters. The author is clearly not using a third-person omniscient POV but rather a similar technique to that which is used in plenty of popular books. You see it in Allegiant, in the Heroes of Olympus series, and in The Lunar Chronicles. In these books, the author will narrate the book from one character's POV in one chapter and another character's POV in the next. Usually, the character's name is listed at the beginning of the chapter to identify the POV and create an easy reference guide for the reader. This kind of switch in POV is identified by Noble as being a perfectly reasonable switching in POV.
Switching between POVs from scene to scene is also okayed by Noble. Cursed (by Thomas Wheeler) uses this strategy to swap between characters in a single chapter. Tintera does exactly this in her books. However, she didn't do it well. While the scenes in Cursed are often shorter and it is always clear who's POV the reader is in, I didn't find this to be the case in the Ruined Trilogy. I was often confused as to who's mind I was in, where in the realm I was, and what/who was being referred to. At first, I would often flip back to the beginning of the chapter, looking for a guide until I came to realize there was none. The only way to know who's POV I was in was to find the first sentence of the scene in which the character was always mentioned. However, scenes ranged in length, and finding the first sentence was a hassle. This was incredibly frustrating for me.
Outside of these issues, the books were good and I enjoyed the plot and characters despite them being similar to other books I had read before. I would encourage readers of YA fantasy to give the Ruined Trilogy a try.