About the Book

Title: Ruinsong
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Witchy Woman
BFF Charms: Caution!, Yay
Talky Talk: She Said, She Said
Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+
Relationship Status: Left Wanting More

Content Warning: Ruinsong features scenes of torture (through magic) and the gruesome death of a pet.

Cover Story: Witchy Woman

This cover is SO striking. It’s got a modern feel, with her very on-trend baby bangs, but her dress and the sparkle elements, in addition to the gold border, give it a really magical feel. And I swear the girl’s looking straight into my soul …

(Kudos to Cassie Gonzales and Ruben Ireland for the killer cover!)

The Deal:

Cadence is a Singer, gifted by the gods with the ability to do magic through song. But her gifts aren’t her own to use; Queen Elene is a brutal ruler who uses Cadence and other mages to keep her people in line.

Remi is the daughter of a noble family who fell from grace after Elene took the throne. She and Cadence used to be friends when they were young, but they haven’t seen each other in many years. Until the day Remi’s forced to attend a Perfoming—an event during which a Singer tortures the nobility through magic—and she recognizes Cadence as her torturer.

BFF Charms: Caution!, Yay

BFF charm wrapped in yellow "Caution" tape

Although she’s been put into a position she can’t see a way out of, Cadence’s gifts make her a frightening person. She doesn’t want to hurt people, but she feels like she can’t say no to Elene without serious consequences—and she knows from experience how terrible those consequences can be. She’s a sweet young woman, but also extremely dangerous, which is a combination I’m wary of in a friend.

Yay BFF Charm

Remi’s a bit naive, having grown up as a member of the nobility, but she has a definite grasp on right and wrong. She’s willing to get her hands dirty, even if that means she has to put herself in danger. She’s the right kind of tenacious and someone I’d give a BFF charm to in a hot second.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cadence and Remi are both interested in people of the female persuasion, but neither have much experience acting on their interests. Being a mage, Cadence is able to love who she loves—mages in this world often have polyamorous relationships with people of all genders—but Remi’s not so free to be herself; at least, that’s how she feels—the nobility is old-fashioned and not exactly open to change. Their relationship is complicated, and the swoon comes more from them thinking about possibilities than any actual action, which is disappointing for all of us.

Talky Talk: She Said, She Said

Ruinsong is split into the POVs of both Cadence and Remi, which creates a well-rounded picture of the plot. But the story definitely gives more time to Cadence, which makes Remi feel like a secondary character. Ember’s worldbuilding leaves a little to be desired—the explanation of Elene’s rise to power, specifically, is really thin—but the magical system in which singing is vital to perform spells is fascinating. The ending of the story also seems a bit rushed and a little too easy. All in all, there are a lot of good things in this book that would benefit from being more fleshed out to create a more robust story.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

Pride flag being waved in a parade

It’s becoming less and less of an unusual occurrence to read YA books that aren’t focused on a heterosexual couple and include elements of the queer experience. Remi, unfortunately, has to deal with a fear of coming out to her parents, but her larger world is already cool with it. I am here for this kind of representation and inclusivity!

Relationship Status: Left Wanting More

We had a nice date, Book, but I can’t help but feel like you were holding a lot back. I would have loved to hear more of your details, even if it took longer!

Literary Matchmaking

Ghost Wood Song

For another book that mixes music and magic, try Erica Waters’s Ghost Wood Song.

Crier’s War (Crier’s War #1)

Nina Varela’s Crier’s War duology also features a complicated relationship between two young women.

Black Canary: Ignite 

And for another book in which the power of one’s voice is both powerful and dangerous, check out Meg Cabot and Cara McGee’s Black Canary: Ignite.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Ruinsong 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.