Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Willow Aster’s Kingdoms of Sin series offers us a world of royalty. Undergirding each standalone in this series is a larger mystery. There is something afoot in each of her books that the hero and heroine of that book must contend with. It’s the tie that binds each of them together. Can they be read as total standalones? Yes. However, for the breadth of the experience, you should read them all. It will make connections in ways that show Aster’s ability to world-build.
Now, Ruin, her newest book, to date, ties with Downfall as my favorite. Even then, I prefer Ruin over Downfall. I think first books in series introduce a new series, hence making them the best. This isn’t always the case, but it’s usually the situation with me. Until now. Ruin offers a story that both grabs your attention and titillates you in equal measure. Why should you read Ruin?
- Ava. Singlehandedly, Ava is my favorite character in the series of standalones thus far. Eden and Elias are the pushovers, to a certain degree, in Downfall and Exposed while Luka and Mara are emotionally dramatic in ways that undermine the romance of their stories. Eventually, they develop emotional maturity, and their relationships become more pleasurable to read. However, until that moment, from a reading standpoint, it can be frustrating. In my opinion, as the youngest character in the series, Ava has the greatest sense of self. Honestly, I struggle with the idea that she is a 17/18 year old because she is the most mature of any of the characters. In the first two books, characters vacillated back and forth between their feelings. Ava does give Gentry chances to accept their attraction and interest; however, she doesn’t chase him. She won’t push herself on Gentry. She knows her self and expects more. In fact, she is exponentially more emotionally mature than Gentry who is 7 or 8 years older in chronological age. She is the first character whom I have truly liked in this series and wanted more of her story.
- The story itself takes an interesting turn that keeps you reading. It’s compelling how Aster introduces more of the underlying story of the kingdoms. In this book, she comes up with an interesting plot twist that seems fairly “out there.” Yet, Aster crafts it in such a way that you can suspend your disbelief. I did have some doubts about Ava’s physical abilities with the plot twist, some inconsistencies. However, they are minute and really quite inconsequential. Again, this story seemed the most compelling of the three books.
- Gentry’s emotional development. In Ruin, Gentry reads like the most frustrating character. He, like Luka, Mara, and Elias of the first two books, can’t seem to make up his mind about his interest in Ava. To be fair, this book is an age-gap/forbidden story. Yet, he seems indecisive for too much of the story. When he finally accepts his attraction and want for Ava, the emotional depth of the story heightens, and it makes for a better read. The Gentry at the end of the book is 100 times better than the Gentry in the first and middle of the book. Keep that in mind as you begin this book. There is a big payoff at the end.
While Ruin is my favorite story to date in the Kingdoms of Sin series, there are still some areas where I think Aster could revise. The narrative has an inconsistent flow at times: sometimes, it moves quickly through the action while at other times, it slows to a “snail’s pace.” In that space, I think Aster could have revised more. I’m hoping when we read Jadon’s story in the forthcoming, Pride, the pacing of the story will be more consistent, and the details balanced to the story. Ruin’s story reminds us that love shouldn’t have boundaries on it. Yes, Gentry and Ava have a large age difference, but age is simply a construct, as Willow Aster shows us. When one’s heart is kindled into a blazing fire by another, if both of them are adults, that age difference shouldn’t matter. Aster makes it clear that Gentry and Ava are soulmates, and their epilogue exemplifies a love bigger than a universe.
In love and romance,