Ruin of Stars swept me away. I enjoyed Mask of Shadows, but Ruin of Stars just clicked with me from the very beginning.
As Opal, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and most importantly the ability to hunt the lords who killed their family. But Sal has to figure out who the culprits are before putting them down. Which means trying to ignore the fact that Elise is being kept a virtual prisoner, and that the queen may have ulterior motives.
And the tales coming out of north are baffling. Talk of dark spirits, missing children, and magic abound. As Sal heads north toward their ruined homeland and the lords who destroyed everything, they learn secrets and truths that can’t be ignored.
First off, since reading Mask of Shadows I’ve seen Miller speak, and wow – impressive. There’s this quiet intelligence and quirkiness that I love – there was this secret kinship that I felt. (Even though Miller could probably kill me over breakfast and have my body dissolved by lunch – at the panel the decomposition of body parts was discussed).
My favorite part of Mask of Shadows was Sal. So getting to see more of Sal in this book was exactly what I wanted. Even more so, because a large topic explored in this book is – who is Sal really? This isn’t about backstory, or history, this is about what drives Sal? Now that Sal, as Opal, has the ability to chase their demons down – what does that leave Sal with? The entire first book, and large parts of this book, is Sal’s desire for revenge – which is completely understandable. But I’ve always known that quests about revenge can leave us feeling hollow and burnt.
Revenge can scoop a hole out inside of us and we don’t know what to fill it with besides fury. And fury is pretty hot. I’ve seen this with my darling Greatcoats series, and so many books because revenge is this universal challenge and feeling we have. Grappling with that, Sal’s journey in Ruin of Stars is even more moving to me. The question is – how sweet is revenge?
Part of why I loved Mask of Shadows was Sal’s gender fluid identity. If you loved that, just pick this book up because there’s so much more. In terms of identity we have another gender fluid, someone who is pansexual (or questioning), and a character who is aromantic as well. Not only is there another gender fluid side character, but there’s some very real discussions about Sal’s identity. There was more discussion about the rigidity and limitations of gender. At the same time, there was a lot of connections between their cultures and these ideas about gender. I don’t want to really explain this because a lot of this is you reading it for yourself – feeling the emotions and those charged moments.
One thing I really liked was Sal’s difficulty feeling like they were Nacean enough. For Sal, their entire country is wiped out – so where is their people? Their homeland? Their culture? A very real question Sal struggles with is maintaining their heritage and concept of home. It’s almost like an invisible test where Sal wants to know if they speak the language is that enough? Where is the invisible test?
There are also multiple women and non-binary characters taking numbers and dealing out an overall sense of being amazing. We have spies, physicians, martyrs, and more. Some of my favorites in this respect were Maud and Elise – but there’s some great new additions as well! Not to mention we find out more about Amethyst and Emerald in this book!
Speaking of the different nations – the history of a particular nation to overwrite history with the narrative they choose hit so close to home. Ruin of Stars is full of nuanced conversations, thrilling action, and explorations of morality. Exactly what will we do for revenge? What is the ultimate line in the sand? Another theme discussed here is the manipulation of tradition mixed with hatred and ignorance. So many fantastic themes here. On the – mind blowing themes – another one dealt with is who becomes monsters? Is our ‘monstrosity’ in the numbers of people we kill? Or our cruelty? Or the intent/purpose?
So many great questions and ways Miller makes us think. What we want to believe or what we think we know is always complicated, challenged, and delved deeper. I actually am still in so much of a book slump from this book.
I am so eager for the more – is there a third, there has to be more right?! Ruin of Stars is about revenge, but it’s about so much more. It’s about finding out who we are, chasing our shadows, and figuring out what matters to us.
Check out this sequel on Goodreads.