A girl holding a knife walks away from a castle on fire at night.

About the Book

Title: Realm of Ruins (The Nissera Chronicles #2)
Published: 2018
Series: The Nissera Chronicles
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Flip-Turned-Upside-Down
Bonus Factor: Retellings
Anti-Bonus Factor: Men
Relationship Status: Let’s Take This to the Next Level

Danger, Will Robinson! Realm of Ruins is the second book in the Nissera Chronicles. If you have not read the first book—The Kingdom of Ash and Briars—you might actually be OK, as Realm of Ruins is more a companion novel than a direct sequel. (But you should still read the first book, regardless.) Sorry to startle you like that.

Cover Story: Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions

Although there are a lot of similar elements on this cover to that of the first book, this one seems to have escalated the action to a whole other level. The young woman is ready to—or already has—burned this mother effer up.

The Deal:

A hundred years have passed in Nissera, and the descendants of Bristal, the elicromancer who saved her nation from devastation, are living in an era where magic is prevalent. The various kingdoms have found peace both within their borders and between their royalty, and one such royal, Valory Braiosa, is attending a school for future elicromancers. She’s also just turned seventeen, an age at which she should have already received her elicrin stone and come into her powers.

But Valory’s magic isn’t exactly what she expected, and when she’s unexpectedly involved in a death that leads to the discovery of an ancient plot, Valory must draw on her ancestor’s strength to once again save Nissera.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

At first, I thought Valory was a pale imitation of Bristal, who made a definite impact on me. But it quickly became apparent that Valory was overwhelmed with guilt—guilt for not living up to her expected potential—and I totally get that, girl. And when Valory’s thrown into a battle with far-reaching consequences, she holds her own and then some. So, basically, my first impressions of her were totally wrong, and she, too, made quite the impact.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

There’s a little bit of enemistry in Realm of Ruins, but I wanted more from the relationship between Valory and [REDACTED]. Even with the few twists West threw their way, the swoon was expected, and very fairy tale. (Fitting, of course, for the novel.)

Talky Talk: Flip-Turned-Upside-Down

As with Kingdom of Ash and Briars, West has combined elements of a handful of well-known tales and familiar fairy tale themes into a fresh and engaging story. I love the universe she’s created, one that is something out of a Disney park; princesses are friends and neighbors, and the secondary characters—people no one have heard of—have become the main players in their own unique stories.

Bonus Factor: Retellings

Where Kingdom of Ash and Briars has elements of CinderellaSleeping BeautyEmma, and MulanRealm of Ruins includes parts of Beauty and the BeastLittle Mermaid, and a faerie story that seemed super familiar*, but I can’t place the exact tale. Like I said in Talky Talk, I love how well all of these known stories play secondary roles while adding a bit of familiar “Easter egg” fun to the book.

*If you know it, please tell me in the comments! All I can think of is A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but I don’t think that’s right.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Men

Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin in Sweeny Todd

Not all of the Bad Guys in Realm of Ruins are men, but the large majority are. And they’re the worst kind: men who think they’re right and will do whatever it takes to gain power, who talk down to women, who use those around them for personal gain. Thankfully, Valory’s the kind of girl—and West is the kind of woman—who believes in a little righteous comeuppance.

Relationship Status: Let’s Take This to the Next Level

I’m so pleased that we got together, Book, and I could revisit the wonderful world within your pages. I’m really feeling something here, and I hope you’re feeling it, too!

Literary Matchmaking

Kingdom of Ash and Briars (The Nissera Chronicles #1)

Realm of Ruins is a companion novel, rather than a direct sequel, but if you somehow read this one before The Kingdom of Ash and Briars, I’d recommend going back and picking that one up, too.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)

Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles is another (awesome) series in which familiar fairy tales are reworked into something new.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1)

And Brigid Kemmerer’s latest, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, is a “swoony and feminist” retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Holiday House, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Realm of Ruins is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.