Realm Of Ruins by Hannah West (The Nissera Chronicles #2)
Publisher: Holiday House Books
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Available Through The Book Depository: Realm Of Ruins
Summary: Valory’s power is different . . . it’s dangerous, unruly, and destructive. But can she channel it to crush a cunning enemy and save the realm from chaos?
Welcome to Nissera, land of three kingdoms and home to spectacular magic.
A century after her legendary ancestors overcame a bloodthirsty tyrant, seventeen-year-old Valory Braiosa attends a training academy for elicromancers, immortal beings with magical gifts. Yet Valory’s immense power seems impossible to tame, and she faces imprisonment by the Nisseran authorities. Then a forbidden resurrection spell awakens a long-dormant evil, and Valory may be the only one who can vanquish this terrifying villain. Together with a band of allies—including an old friend; a haughty princess; and a mysterious, handsome stranger—Valory must learn to harness her power and fight back.
*Requested an ARC from the publisher*
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Readers are back in land of Nissera in Realm Of Ruins, the spin-off/companion to West’s 2016 debut, Kingdom Of Ash And Briars! Valory Braiosa is sent on a quest to not only clear her name, but take down a darkness that threatens to ruin her world! This YA Fantasy melds so much from action, magic, fairy tales, quests, dark powers, royalty, & so much more! If your also looking for wholly unique twists on the classic fairy tales, West’s books are the ones to check out!
*Before I get into my review–just want to say I’m so happy to be back posting on the blog! 😍💞✨📚🎉 Finals are coming up and that’s why this book took me a bit longer to finish than expected! But happy to be posting my first review (finally) in December!
Back in the early days of my blog, I fell in love with West’s debut, Kingdom Of Ash And Briars! So, of course I just had to get an ARC of it!
Realm Of Ruins takes place generations after KOAAB! To start, I loved that the story was plotted that way because throughout the novel we explore this idea of those who came before us, legacies, how history plays a role into our future, & so on!
Now the plot itself has a lot of different elements to it and weaves in a lot throughout this single book–so sorry if my review is all over the place!
Valory Braiosa, descendant of Bristal & Anthony from KOAAB is a royal, but not exactly an Elicromancer–unlike her other cousins and family members.
As a student of a magical academy, she’s joined by her best friend Knox, and cousins such as Melkior (who isn’t exactly nice to her) and Ander!
There’s a scene in which Val is in classes and we learn about the school, history and how its shaped the ways of magic in her time now and the way West makes it such a seamless, but integral part of the story was one of my favorite elements when it comes to the world building!
On a quick side-note, often times in YA fantasy books (when it comes to future books in series or spin-offs) there isn’t always much explanation or exploration from previous installments and how they really shape numerous aspects of a world from its politics, magic system, beliefs–and I felt West really made it clear how important that was to the world!
Especially reading about the academy in general, because in KOAAB Elicromancers are somewhat on their own and guide each other. But, seeing how the world has grown to meld elicromancy into the everyday and train new generations was so fascinating to read about!
But of all her family members, her cousin Ivria is practically her best friend and they are always honest with each other–or so, Valory thinks!
During Val’s birthday dinner, she finds Ivria having run off and head towards the Water through a magical portal.
The Water is what allows an Elicromancer to get their fully harness their abilities. It chooses them and with that, they get an Elicrin Stone which also symbolizes their power.
Ivria has the ability to sense danger and fears she will never fully grasp her powers. So, she heads to The Water alone to see for herself.
However, Ivria is set on getting to the Water & as Val jumps into save her, she realizes Ivria didn’t make it & the Water has disappeared!!
Now being seen as a murderer and forced to go to trial by the Conclave to the Realm Alliance. This requires a journey away from her kingdom and with those she though were on her side, now against her. Also, a neutralizer (by the name of Brandar) to keep her powers in check, doesn’t help either!
When Valory’s grandmother joins and mentions something about people in white cloaks & masks, they also learn of a mysterious (possibly looming threat) known as the Summoners!
As stops along the way allow Valory to visit her cousins (Gliselle, Perrenia, & Ambrosine) they convince her to talk to their brother Deovrian–there we learn of a mysterious tablet & how the Summoners may be involved?
When the tablet unleashes a dark force, Valory learns more about what the Water left behind (that now resides within her–some dark & dangerous power) and the journey she will have to undergo to clear her name.
I love how this story really takes on an anti-hero vibe through Val as we see the extent of her powers near the end!
Val goes through so much in this book where it looks like the world is stacked against her, but with her cousin Glisette, fellow princess friend Kadri, & mysterious Mercer who we learn time-traveled from generations in the past!
Now they team up to help Val on her journey to learn more about the mysterious force known as The Summoners which are spreading illness and death wherever they go!
We soon learn that Mercer may have the answers as he has the ability to see visions! This leads to even more being uncovered about the Summoners, Mercer’s past (like his brother Tilmorn) & how this all ties to a mysterious elicromancer known as the Moth King!
Similar to West’s debut, fairy tales are twisted in such unique ways that really bring even more magic to the world of Nissera! From The Little Mermaid (seen through Kadri’s boyfriend who’s a prince who loves sailing & becomes interested in finding a mermaid who saved him), even Beauty & Beast (when Devorian’s cost of unlocking the tablet turns him into a beast).
The fairy tales are uniquely woven, but also into the story and have such distinct details mentioned that really make them their own. For ex. there’s mention of Devorian keeping mirrors closed to not be in contact w/ his sisters, even a sea witch & mermaid who are reminiscent of The Little Mermaid)
The characters all have their own flaws and secrets that make them feel real and I love how their imperfections or fears really allowed me to see their growth by the end!
I love how this journey isn’t exactly linear! While it seems that way in the beginning, the way West plots her stories allows for the story to go in so many directions, yet all tie together as it progresses. From numerous royal families, fairy tale homages, dark magic, quests–West packs so much into this standalone tale!
Also what made the magic so interesting was seeing how Val, a person who wasn’t born with magic, inherits this magical ability from the Water which we learn has the power to destroy, but also create! The Water itself becomes a pretty major part in the magic system as the story progresses and I love how it was explored! This also allows for her to explore, throughout the book both before and after she touches the Water, the legacy her ancestors left behind and how she questions whether she’s even capable of such things that family members who came before her managed!
Also there was one particular thing that really surprised me and that just brought back all the memories from KOAAB! We meet a very interesting Elicromancer who has ties to Bristal and I loved how that story line tied into the major plot! The references and ties to West’s first book was just something I did not see coming in the way that it did-but I loved how it was explored!
Time-travel was explored so well in this novel and I loved how it tied into the main story.
The world itself is incredibly vast and you sense that through the journey Val takes and just the way West describes the little details of the kingdoms. However, there were a few moments where a lot of the locations did get a bit confusing & could have had differing explanations when it comes to their depth. But overall, you can tell West has built such a vast world!
Now on to some of things that did lower my rating! Personally, I found the pacing to be rather slow for me and it dragged quite a bit from the middle on-wards. There were also some plot points explored when some time passes & Val returns home, which I wish had a little more explanation (b/c while it does make sense with the story) I found for me personally it came a little out of nowhere and I was a little lost as to how all that happened in that amount of time!
There were also some side characters, one’s that take on a villain role & at times the villain himself, that I wish had some more development b/c they become so important later on–that I found there character at times just needed a little more!
Returning to the plot, as the story continues I loved how it becomes clear what the goal is (to destroy the Moth King), but the uncertainty as to if Val & her friends could do it, made it all the more interesting to figure out!
Another element which made this fantasy book so unique too, was how it concludes after the battle (which I won’t spoil). Just seeing how characters naturally go their separate ways and explaining all the work left to do after all that’s happened really left it on a note where your satisfied with the ending, but still know there’s much more to explore! ( Valory’s ending was really epic & kind of ambiguous, but I loved that).
Realm Of Ruins is a YA Fantasy that weaves in classic fairy tales, while also delivering a wholly unique story all its own! From journeys across magical lands, dark magic, royalty, & the importance of self and how you can shape your own destiny! West’s spin-off continues to build on her magical world of Nissera and leaves opportunity for future installments!