Fates of Ruin by Jo-Anne Tomlinson
I read an early version of this book, and I eagerly awaited the release of this version so I could start hawking it to all my friends. I’m also a huge fan of her space opera, which is linked below.
“Jahna Mornglow is a thief and a liar, a half-breed of the ostracized Narcean race, born with the gift of fates. With no kindred to call her own, Jahna lives as an outcast, placing her faith in the dagger and the coin rather than family or the silent gods that have abandoned them.
But not all is what it seems. Her world is in danger and when the fates within her awaken, Jahna finds herself the banished heir of a kingdom close to ruin.
The land of Ardentia is vast and magical, carved by the Celestial gods and ruled by their mortal descendants. With a once great king mysteriously ill, a thousand-years’ war raging in the east and whispers of an ancient evil’s return, Ardentia’s salvation now rests on the shoulders of Jahna and her guild of young outsiders.
Enemies will be unmasked, secrets will be revealed and a fragmented artefact will breathe new life into the myths of old.
Spurred by vengeance and grief, does Jahna possess the resolve to keep safe a world that has shunned and discarded her?”
Tomlinson has a gift for crafting engaging, three-dimensional characters. The witty repartee between them is entertaining without feeling forced. Many modern movies comprise one long action scene with a few lines of awkward comic relief. While this book’s plot is filled with action, the characters’ interaction is so genuine you come to view them as your new best friends. Furthermore, Tomlinson goes beyond the usual orcs and elves to create unique races and creatures.
Jahna, Lilac, and Silko are three misfits disappointed with their lack of progress toward their dreams. As a millennial who too-recently went through the “quarter-life crisis,” I could relate. Jahna’s unknown past comes crashing into the present, launching her and her friends on a quest to claim revenge, and maybe save the kingdom in the process.
Jahna struggles with her biracial identity as her unfamiliar Narcean heritage continues to surface along the journey. She is a strong female lead, but vulnerable enough to gain sympathy.
I love Lilac because she subverts a trope I would like to see extinct: the sexy ninja trope. You know, the 90-pound supermodel in tight leather and heels who takes down six marines and whose hair—which she didn’t even bother to put into a ponytail—looks like she just walked out of a salon rather than a fist fight.
Lilac, however, is a muscular brute of a woman described such that I totally believe she can rip a man in half with her bare hands. She sweats, belches, and gets covered in mud. She keeps her hair pulled back in braids and wears practical footwear. I adore her.
In the earlier version of this book, Silko fell into another trope I despise: the wussy academic. We’ve all seen the four-eyed geeks who have to take a puff from their inhalers before squeaking out a line of comic relief. Being married to an engineer, I like to point out that statistically, people with a high IQ are in better physical condition than those with a lower IQ.
Fortunately, as the author aged up her characters, Silko gained more of a backbone. He is still a physical weakling—a nice contrast to Lilac, and a logical result of his obsession with books—but he speaks his mind more and uses his intelligence as the weapon it is. This first book in the series suggests a strong growth arc for him, so I’m okay with him starting out as a coward. This type of physically weak smart guy, I can handle-one with potential for growth and whose role in the plot goes beyond comic relief.
This plot well paced for the modern attention span. It is not for readers who enjoy stopping and smelling the roses. Tolkien fans will not find pages of poetry, invented languages, or interminable stretches of historic backstory. It starts with action and continues to hop from predicaments to predicament as the protagonists push toward their goal.
Beyond the usual “ambushed by bad guys and have to fight their way out,” the protagonists face interesting challenges that require them to rely on each other’s unique strengths to overcome.
As I mentioned before, Tomlinson has a gift for character creation, particularly with dialogue. She provides enough description and backstory for the reader to immerse themselves in the story world without bogging down the pacing. I’m not a fan of cliff-hanger endings, but as I know I’ll buy the next book anyway, I’m okay with this one.
I like the new cover design, but I don’t think the title was emphasized enough throughout the story. Perhaps the next book in the series will make it more clear.
If you seek an escape into an exciting world with interesting people, look no further. The Fates of Ruin is an engaging read that will have you thinking about its characters even as you make your morning coffee run.
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