QUEEN OF RUIN (Grace & Fury #2) - by Tracy Banghart

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Published: July 2019 - Hachette Children's Group. 
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance / adventure.
Pages: 337.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / gory descriptions / sexual innuendos.  
Format: Paperback. 
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

Nomi and Malachi find themselves powerless and headed towards their all-but-certain deaths. Now that Asa sits on the throne, he will stop at nothing to make sure Malachi never sets foot in the palace again.

Nomi's sister, Serina, is far away on the prison island of Mount Ruin - but it is in the grip of revolution and Serina leads. The women there have their sights set on revenge beyond the confines of their island prison. They will stop at nothing to gain freedom for the entire kingdom. But first they'll have to get rid of Asa, and only Nomi knows how.

Separated once again, this time by choice, Nomi and Serina must forge their own paths as they aim to tear down the world they know, to build something better in its place.

Despite my mixed feelings on Book 2, I highly recommend this duology. It's a wonderfully entertaining, fun, and feminist adventure.

The prose is just as easy to read and solidly written as the first book, and while it's in no way remarkable, it suits the general story. The dialogue, too, is nothing exceptional, but it's fun and does what it needs to do to keep the story moving.

My big problem with this novel is the plot. It's fast-paced and exciting (I struggled to put it down) but it repeatedly fails to deliver on all its exciting buildup. I kept expecting a certain fight to happen, or for things to go pear-shaped, or for someone to get captured, or for certain threats to follow through, but things are just too easy.

For example, when Malachi and Nomi stay at an inn they are warned to keep Nomi out of sight because soldiers are going around and capturing girls. Nomi decides to risk it, and joins Malachi for dinner in public. And that's it - she risks capture and she gets away with it. Now the logical (and more rewarding) thing for the author to do would be for soldiers to arrive and capture Nomi. That would have thrown a twist in the plot, have been a satisfying consequence of her own choice (however foolish), and let's face it, it's more enjoyable to read about her being captured and having to deal with that, than simply read about her eating dinner, going back to her room, and escaping the risk. 

That kind of anticlimax happened a lot. A threat would be introduced, but it might as well have not been because it never actually became a real problem. Where there could have been a twist or a fight scene or a capture, the characters managed to get out of it. Especially at the end, things wrapped up too easily and conveniently. Every "problem" that arose had an easy solution, and although the characters acted like it was a big deal, they dealt with it generally painlessly. 

  "Knowing I was your property made me safe, made me make sense in his world. It was okay that I was a 'handful' because you had me under control. Malachi, you didn't even blink. You didn't have to think about it. You knew what would reassure him, and it was treating me like an unbroken horse."  

I love the characters. The secondary cast are entertaining and interesting, and the romances get the perfect amount of page time. I also love how the guys cheer Serina and Nomi on and let them do their thing without being overprotective or fighting their battles for them. They're partners. Equals. I love that.

Nomi and Serina are fantastic heroines, but Serina is my favourite. She organises a rebellion, she leads an army, she encourages and supports the women around her, while Nomi spends most of the book ambling around and avoiding confrontation. Their personalities are different, I get that, but at least Serina takes charge of her situation - Nomi doesn't. That annoys me.

Queen of Ruin is a thrilling, fun sequel with compelling heroines. Unfortunately, I found the plot anti climatic. 

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