Queen of Ruin lived up to its name and emotionally ruined me but no regrets

Title: Queen of Ruin
Series: Grace and Fury #2
Author: Tracy Banghart
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication: July 11th 2019, Hachette Children's Group
Pages: 400 pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Children's for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 5/5 cupcakes

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. 

When I read Grace & Fury the ending left me completely gobsmacked. I needed the second book like I needed air...it definitely didn't disappoint.

The thing that struck me most was the transformation of the characters, particularly Serina. Although Serina's character underwent drastic development in the book first, I felt her grow even more into herself in this sequel. I absolutely adore Serina and I believe she's one of my new favourite protagonists. What I love about Serina is she's courageous, strong, passionate, and fierce. But, and think this is what distinguishes her from a lot of characters with similar qualities, she has a kind, gentleness about her. She's not a brutal character. She gives people chances, she feels deeply, and she fights for others. She's an extremely well-written character. Her loyalty, bravery, and determination makes her an excellent role model and a character that I'm delighted to know.

Nomi also changed in this book but her change wasn't as dramatic as Serena's. Nomi has always been the sister who is rebellious, a free thinker, and a risk-taker. I loved watching Nomi harness her energy, passion, and determination to aid her in dismantling the warped society she finds herself in. Nomi is a brilliant character too. She was born with the personality of a leader. In the first book we witnessed the power and authority simmering in her; I loved seeing these elements developed.

Nomi and Serina both possess bravery, loyalty, courage, and empathy; however, they also possess raw, painfully real vulnerability. They are both incredibly complex characters with multiple aspects to their character that fleshes them out.

Another aspect of Tracy Banghart's writing that added depth to the story is her ability to write secondary characters. All the secondary characters were unique and complex too. The ever-present danger and tension, as well as the knowledge that there was no safety, made me painfully aware of all the characters' possible demise. I care for the secondary characters. They each had their own backgrounds, stories, dreams, and fears that added to the powerful impact this book has. No character is sage and all the characters you care for makes this a heart-pounding reading experience.

I adored the love interests too. Malachi is gruff and aloof but melts in the hands of Nomi. It's quite adorable. Val is supportive and gentle. They love interests fit so well with the girls that soul mates take on a whole new meaning. They complement one another, omtivate, and support each other. I absolutely adore Val and Malachi. They have open minds and are aware to the dangers and toxicity that pervades their society. They are willing to fight for change.

 This brings me to the presentation of the relationships in Queen of Ruin. They were excellent. The sisterly relationship was utterly spectacular. Nomi and Serina were both strong, courageous young women. In a lot of fantasy books, one of the sisters has to be saved or the female protagonist requires rescuing. This wasn't the case. Nomi and Serina did rely on or receive help from their friends occasionally; however, they were mostly self-sufficient, resourceful, and independent. I loved how they were so protective, loving, and supportive of one another. They had such a wonderful relationship!

The romantic relationships were stunningly written too. The romantic partners in these books were equals. They fought and tackled problems by each others' sides. One romantic partner didn't make all the decisions nor was a damsel in distress. They made decisions together and discussed things. They supported, cherished, and loved. The relationships were incredibly healthy and well portrayed. With Malachi and Val, it was especially apparent how much they loved and were willing to fight for Nomi and Serina. They are incredible male characters and I loved them. There was definitely squealing when romance was given page-time because they were wonderfully written and swoon-worthy. 

I also adored the writing and the plot. There can be no dispute that Tracy Banghart is an extraordinarily talented writer. Tracy writing voice is raw, real and utterly compelling. Her sentences are packed with heart-breaking honesty, tension, and suspense; however, they are also beautifully strung together to depict the bond of an unbreakable sisterhood and the determination and passion to fight for justice truth. Her writing was so incredibly powerful. The execution of realistic character development and the depth of the secondary characters showed her excellent characterisation. The atmosphere of intensity and danger was palpable too. I actually had to take a break from this book at the 70% mark because I felt like the threats the characters were face were facing couldn't possible have a good outcome. That's how good this book was.

I won't say much in the way of plot, as NO SPOILERS HERE! All you need to know is that it's shocking, action-packed, and brilliantly constructed. There were literally no dull moments. Queen of Quin sits at around 400 pages but I read it in 2-3 sittings. 

Queen of Ruin was absolutely spectacular. It was a brutal and raw tale of an unbreakable bond between sisters, the courage that lies within the hearts of us all, and the power we hold to change a treacherous society. It's a powerful read of hope and resilience that I completely adored.

I give it: 5/5 cupcakes