The Ruined City by Paula Brandon
Publisher: Random House/Feb. 2012
Kind thanks to Random House for providing a review copy
Reality is wavering. Soon its delicate balance will shift and an ancient force will return to overwhelm the Veiled Isles. Now those with the arcane talent forge an uneasy alliance in hopes that their combined abilities are enough to avert an eerie catastrophe. Yet it may be too late. The otherworldly change has begun. The streets of the city are rife with chaos, plague, and revolt. And it is here that Jianna Belandor, once a pampered daughter of privilege, returns to face new challenges.
The dead walk the streets. The docile amphibian slaves of humanity have taken up arms. Jianna’s home lies in ruins. Her only happiness resides in her growing attraction to Falaste Rione, a brilliant nomadic physician whose compassion and courage have led him to take dangerous risks. Jianna, stronger and more powerful than she knows, has a role to play in the unfolding destiny of her world. But a wave of madness is sweeping across the land, and time is running out—even for magic.
REVIEW (This is 2nd in a series beginning with The Traitor’s Daughter. If you haven’t started the series yet, feel free to read my review of The Traitor’s Daughter)
The Ruined City picks up fairly soon after The Traitor’s Daughter ends, with Jianna and Falaste traveling with his sister, and her rebel band, The Ghosts. Jianna’s father, Aureste Belador is terrified that his brother Innesq will not wake up after the attack on his home, and is forced to make a deal that sets his teeth on edge, namely using his influence to release his arch nemesis Vinz Corvestri (Magnifio of Faerlonne). In return for his release, Vinz must help Innesq recover using his magic. Innesq Belador, a powerful arcanist in his own right, must ally himself with Vinz Corvestri and a group of other arcanists to keep the Source (where all magic originates) from corrupting. Yvenza Belandor is back, much to Aureste Belandor’s chagrin, and she got under my skin just as much as in The Traitor’s Daughter. Aureste is no gentle lamb, and there’s a lot to hate about him. He’s a pompous ass, yet fairly shrewd, and he should feel threatened by Yvenza. After all, he’s the one that ruined her life and forced her into hiding. You can’t blame Yvenza for her actions, yet she’s so conniving and calculating, she’s hard to sympathize with. In addition, the undead are walking the streets, the Sishmindri are becoming bolder, plague is rampant, and something must be done to restore the balance of power. When Falaste’s sister is arrested for a violent political crime, along with Falaste, who is innocent, Jianna must find out a way to set him free, before he hangs.
I really enjoyed The Traitor’s Daughter, and while this one didn’t hold me quite as rapt, it was quite a good read. Paula Brandon doesn’t waste words when telling a story, and her dry wit and frequent, biting sarcasm, although subtle, is part of what really makes these books great fun. At the same time, the author explores some rather serious themes (slavery, subjugation, political intrigue), but it’s all in the execution (ahem, so to speak). Jianna has certainly matured from the first book, going from spoiled little rich girl to responsible, socially aware young adult with quite a bit of backbone. She’s no wilting flower, and her growing feelings for Falaste, in addition to the realization that her father may not be all she thought he was, drives much of her actions. I like this Jianna, and am glad to see her come into her own.
There are lots of traditional fantasy elements here, and they’re done so well by Ms. Brandon (as it should be, she’s an old pro), that it’s quite easy to immerse yourself in this twisty story of arcane magic and political intrigue in the fictional Veiled Isles. The creepy threat of the Overmind also hangs over our heroes and heroines, and its power is greater than anything they’ve ever experienced. Can the Source be healed in time, and will Jianna free Falaste before it’s too late? These are both questions that we’re left with at the end of The Ruined City, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens in The Wanderers!