Kate Elliott – In The Ruins

In The Ruins (2005), the sixth book of the epic fantasy Crown Of Stars series by Kate Elliott, is actually the first half of what was supposed to be the final novel. As its size became too large it was split in two so that this novel doesn’t have as much of a real ending like the previous novels. On the other side it does not have much of a cliffhanger either although the story is simply broken off at a convenient point.

In her epic fantasy series Elliott has tried to change the order of events and revelations to create a different feeling compared to the mainstream series. This does provide a certain refreshing take, although one shouldn’t make more of it than it is. The events are not particularly different, but it does require the series to go beyond the normal plot as the previous book, The Gathering Storm, contained the big climax of the series, with many consequences, so that Elliott now explores the story of what happens after. Of course Elliott knew where she was heading so she made sure there were still several plot threads left open after the climax. Many things still have not been resolved.

In my review of The Gathering Storm I complained about a loss of connection with the characters because Elliott was pushing the plot too much. This issue now gone as there is no need to push. As such I felt a connection again, but not as I had felt in the third or fourth book. More like the first two novels. A certain tension is gone as there are less conflicts between characters as they have learned and accepted or rejected. One could say they have grown and developed, but in certain ways they are mostly still the same as before.

As this is in fact the first half of a greater novel I can’t say too much about the plot except that Elliott seems to try a bit too hard to put her main characters in jeopardy while certain plot-tricks are suddenly not a problem anymore. These are minor annoyances, although they have been around for some times, especially in the previous book. Then again, such a thing is just a matter of taste as I am simply not a fan of using the plot to continuously put the main characters in a bad position in which they are weak while the bad guys have it easy most of the time. On that part it seems that I had expected certain developments because Elliott earlier in the series had hinted at the possibility, although I hoped Elliott might steer away from them. In contrast to those she managed to surprise at other times so it is somewhat unclear to me why she chose to do two different things which only lead to ambiguous feelings.

While providing a refreshing take on the typical fantasy plot structure In The Ruins cannot match the quality of the third and fourth book, until now the best of the series, but it is it still manages to be on a similar level as the first two books, as the weaker parts are compensated by the stronger parts. A good recovery after a somewhat weak fifth book, allowing the reader to be willing to continue to the next and final book.

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