Today’s review is about FALL OF RUIN AND WRATH by Jennifer L. Armentrout. It’s the first book in the Awakening series, a fantasy romance for adults. It’s a sensual, dangerous romp involving mortal and immortal dynamics, but behind closed doors and on the field of rebellion.
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Awakening, #1
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Bramble (Tor Publishing Group)
Publish Date: September 12, 2023
Print Length: 432
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SHE LIVES BY HER INTUITION. HE FEEDS ON HER PLEASURE.
From Jennifer L. Armentrout, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of From Blood and Ash, comes the beginning of a searing fantasy romance series for adults, Fall of Ruin and Wrath.
Long ago, the world was destroyed by gods. Only nine cities were spared. Separated by vast wilderness teeming with monsters and unimaginable dangers, each city is now ruled by a guardian–royalty who feed on mortal pleasure.
Born with an intuition that never fails, Calista knows her talents are of great value to the power-hungry of the world, so she lives hidden as a courtesan of the Baron of Archwood. In exchange for his protection, she grants him information.
When her intuition leads her to save a traveling prince in dire trouble, the voice inside her blazes with warning–and promise. Today he’ll bring her joy. One day he’ll be her doom.
When the Baron takes an interest in the traveling prince and the prince takes an interest in Calista, she becomes the prince’s temporary companion. But the city simmers with rebellion, and with knights and monsters at her city gates and a hungry prince in her bed, intuition may not be enough to keep her safe.
Calista must choose: follow her intuition to safety or follow her heart to her downfall.
Breathtaking suspense and scorching romance meet in this immersive new fantasy from a mega-bestselling force, Jennifer L. Armentrout.
FALL OF RUIN AND WRATH by Jennifer L. Armentrout is an absolute banger of a fantasy romance book. I had never read a book by this author prior to reading this first installment of the Awakening series. I took a chance on FALL OF RUIN AND WRATH because of the titillating premise. And I was absolutely not disappointed. This is the first fantasy romance book in a long while that I stayed up late to binge read. I say this as someone who will forever chase that ACOTAR high. If this introductory paragraph to my review hasn’t yet sold you, then read on!
Introduced to the reader as an orphan, the lead female character, Calista (Lis), later ends up as a courtesan to Claude, the Baron of Archwood. He keeps her close and protected–along with her best friend, Grady–because she has the unique gift of intuition and foresight. Claude has his vices and is not the best leader, but he treats Lis and his other courtesans well. One night, Lis follows her intuition and saves a Hyhborn, essentially a god-like being, from his demise at the hands of mortals. The pull between them is undeniable and they fall into each other’s orbit, despite her intuition’s warning. But a rebellion threatens the world as Lis knows it and she finds herself embroiled in something she never expected.
If you’re a reader of JLA, or fantasy romance in general, let’s cut straight to the chase. This is a very sensual book and JLA deliciously builds the anticipation. Mortals (lowborns) are essentially ruled by Hyhborns, who feed off of others’ and their own pleasure. This pleasure may be from anything a mortal finds pleasing, but it also often involves sensual acts. Right away this sets up potentially captivating scenarios. This premise also has the potential to back up against some questionable predicaments. However, Lis’s limited world is very sex positive, with the occasional misogynistic comment from secondary characters. Consent is also a very important component that Lis communicates clearly. To that end, Lis also acknowledges that she is neither good nor bad and the same can be said for others around her, especially when considering personal histories.
This book is also very dialogue heavy. There is a single, limited point of view via Lis, which happens to be my preference because I like surprises. She has some internal reflections, but the readers learns mostly through Lis’s conversations with other characters. I usually find this method of story telling dull, but somehow it works. There is a fantastic balance between the frequent dialogue and how JLA communicates emotions and world building. Rather than loading information onto the reader at the start, instead readers learn through conversation throughout the story. I thought this was an effective way to show how each character fits into the grand scheme of things. It also allows for strong characterization.
But this story isn’t solely about the romance and immortals. Interwoven into the storyline is classism, evident in the naming scheme of “Hyhborn” and “lowborn.” Both Lis and Grady reflect on the flaws in the system. These include food insecurity, homelessness, and the fact that the rulers are out of touch with those they are supposed to protect. Because of this, mortal lives are inconsequential to immortals, particularly if they feel it’s for the greater good.
Finally, yes, there are some tropes in this book. However, the story owns them rather than the tropes dominating the reading experience. I didn’t feel as if this book set out to check trope boxes like FOURTH WING did (which I enjoyed, for the record). Consider, though, that I haven’t yet read any of this author’s other works. So I don’t know how FALL OF RUIN AND WRATH compares to them.
In summary, fantasy romance lovers need to get their hands on this book. It’s binge worthy and a fantastic start to a new series. I want the next book immediately and I hope it includes more world building and court politics.
Content warnings: sexual content, blood, death, gore, drugging (mention, off page), child abuse (brief mention, off page)
Reading format: Hardback