Booklist Reviews

"No one feared Emelina Flores," the first chapter of this series opener claims. "But they would." Magic-less Ruined girl Em seeks vengeance on the people and the kingdom that killed her entire family. Masquerading as Princess Mary of Vallos, she intends to pose as Prince Casimir's betrothed, insinuating herself into his life in neighboring Lera. Eventually, she plans to ambush the royal family, killing them in an attempt to achieve the peace her mother promised her. Both she and Cas are unwilling to be betrothed to a stranger or used as pawns in this game of alliances, and neither expects the romance that blooms between them. Em is further caught between sides when her closest friend and longtime love is captured and tortured by the king. Tintera tosses readers directly into the action. Em, constantly on the lookout for ways to kill and escape whatever situation she's in, is a fascinating heroine, and that alone will make readers eager for the sequel. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

When Em marries the son of the king who ordered her people hunted down and killed, she doesn't plan on falling for him. Doing so is unfortunate: if her plan works, he and his family will die. The politics and logistics of this revenge plot are overshadowed by the romance, but the complex emotional core will still attract readers.

Kirkus Reviews

An undercover operation goes awry in this series-opening political fantasy. Despite a rising death toll, royal families of four kingdoms continue to plot one another's demise through martial, marital, and sometimes magical means. Eager to stop the extermination of the magic-wielding Ruined of Ruina and find her kidnapped younger sister, Olivia, the chosen Ruined heir, Emelina Flores kills Princess Mary Anselo of Vallos, assumes her identity, and weds Prince Casimir Gallegos of Lera. "Useless" Em lacks bone-crunching, viscera-splattering Ruined powers but continually plans how to kill people, using household decorations if necessary. She is aiming to extract information on Olivia's location before killing Casimir and his family and letting the warriors of Olso attack, but budding romance stays her hand…and provides most of the plot. Em and Cas share the narrative as well as a history of overbearing, bloodthirsty parents—Em's mother's method for keeping the peace wa s "to kill everyone who threatened it"—and their gradual courtship is marked by endless misunderstandings and opportunistic slaughter. Tintera's mix of violence and vengeance with a star-crossed-lovers story offers an olive-skinned heroine and only slightly lighter-skinned hero, abundant angst, and plentiful cinematic action sequences, if few sympathetic or developed secondary characters. Readers expecting resolution must wait for the sequels. Standard fantasy and warfare featuring a lethal leading lady. (Fantasy. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 8 Up—Unlike most other people from Ruina, Emelina Flores has no magical abilities. After her parents, the king and queen, are murdered and her younger sister is kidnapped, Em must rely on her cunning and skill with a sword to exact revenge against the royal family of Lera and rescue her sister. She quickly dispatches Princess Mary of neighboring Vallos and takes her place as the bride of Prince Casimir in order to infiltrate the castle. But unlike his genocidal father, Cas is kind, and Em is unexpectedly attracted to him. When an army of warriors from the kingdom of Olso attacks, per Em's plan, she has to struggle with her new affection for her husband as she continues her quest to destroy Lera. Em is a resilient and likable heroine with a wry sense of humor, a knack for self-preservation, and the fighting prowess to match. Cas is a sympathetic character who is a skilled fighter with a sense of duty to his family and country. Secondary characters are more narrowly focused on defending their respective kingdoms and don't display much depth. Told in the alternating points of view of Em and Cas, the book features action, palace intrigue, romance, and a large spattering of blood and gore. Just when it appears possible that love might conquer hate, there is a twist at the book's end guaranteeing a sequel that will likely be even more violent. VERDICT This book will appeal to fans of female-powered battle-filled epic fantasy.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT

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