Serena’s Review: “A Ruinous Fate”

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Book: “A Ruinous Fate” by Kaylie Smith

Publishing Info: Disney Hyperion, January 2023

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Calliope Rosewood is a witch with a long streak of bad luck. Like all witches in Illustros, her fate is directly tied to Witch’s Dice—powerful artifacts that have blessed her kind with limitless magic but also set them on a path toward destruction. Cursed with unspeakable powers that terrify even the most dangerous witches and fae, Calla deserted her coven four years ago and has been in hiding with her two best friends since. But Calla is also hiding a grave secret: She is only three Rolls away from becoming the last Blood Warrior and starting the Final War that will decimate her people and eradicate their magic.

After a betrayal from her ex leads her one step closer to fulfilling that age-old prophecy, Calla is desperate to do whatever it takes to reset her fate . . . even if that means journeying into the deadly Neverending Forest with said ex and his enticing, yet enigmatic older brother to find the one being who can help her forge her own path. As Calla ventures farther into the enchanted woods, she finds her heart torn between her past desires and the alluring new possibilities of her future and learns that choosing your own destiny may come with deadly consequences.

Review: First off, thanks to Disney Hyperion for reaching out to me with an ARC for review! I was excited to check it out for a few different reasons. For one thing, I’ve always enjoyed the cover art done by this cover artist. And for a second thing, I thought the description sounded very unique. The concept of witches who are dependent to some extent on a dice game of chance, with either the opportunity to gain massive powers or fall into peril. And, of course, our main character who seems to be fearful of becoming essentially what sounds like the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse. Let’s dive in!

Since I kind of just gave a description of the book above, I’m going to skip that paragraph in my post and just jump right into the review. First off, the uniqueness of the premise did hold up in the book itself. The idea of the magical dice and the way they tie into the fate of any given witch is interesting and adds new dynamics to what could have otherwise been a very familiar sound magic system. On top of the ordinary way the dice work (“ordinary”), our main character is dealing with a situation where she has rolled three very unique rolls already. So unique that they point to a dark and grim fate not only for her but for the entire world.

However, while the greater concept of the dice was solid, I did get caught up a bit in a few of the details. While clarity did come slowly but surely, the first quarter of this book just throws the reader in with very little explanation. As such, I did find myself struggling to connect to the main character and the story as a whole, since so much of my attention was getting caught up in the “whys” and “hows” of the whole thing.

I do think, however, that this magical system was the best part of the book, and something that will probably interest a lot of YA fantasy fans. However, the wheels came off the bus for me with the characters themselves. Honestly, I found almost every single character fairly annoying and obnoxious, not least Calla herself. Her decisions and reasoning for said decisions were so difficult to not only understand but sympathize with when they inevitably lead to dramatic outcomes. Worst of all, she’d often claim to be working for the good of others, but again and again, she ultimately came across as a fairly selfish and brash character.

And…there were love triangles. Love trainglesssssss! Plural! So, that wasn’t a win for me. I have a really hard time imaging any situation where multiple love triangles is necessary or enhances a story. Indeed, I’m on record as saying there are very few situations where ANY love triangle is necessary or enhances a story. This is definitely not an exception to that rule. Worse, said love interests were just as frustrating and infuriating as the other characters, both main and side.

All of this to say, I think this is the sort of YA book that will appeal to bigtime YA fantasy fans. Those who are devoted to this genre will likely appreciate the creative world building. And all of the rest, the main character’s personality and the love triangles, are familiar archetypes of this genre, so major fans will probably not bat an eye in the same way that I did. However, for general fantasy fans, I’m not sure this one is worth the time.

Rating 7: Familiar elements will likely draw in the regular YA fantasy crowd, but I’m not sure it has enough to appeal to a larger fantasy audience.

Reader’s Advisory:

“A Ruinous Fate” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Best Books Featuring Witches and Upcoming 2023 SFF Books With Female Leads or Co-Leads.

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