How this fantasy-fearing journalist fell for ‘Ruthless Vows’

Book Reviews

(It’s much more than the romance!)

Ruthless Vows, by Rebecca Ross ⎸ Macmillan Young Listeners ⎸ $32.99

The fore-edge painting of the OwlCrate edition of Ruthless Vows

I don’t do fantasy and I don’t mean just books. I am the person that you don’t want to watch a movie with. The last superhero movie I saw was probably the first Spiderman. If the movie is fictional then I will point out every flaw, every impossibility and every ridiculous thing that can never happen in real life.

I am, to be blunt, a nightmare. Do not invite me to your home. Ever.

Part of this aspect of my personality stems from my job as a journalist and a journalism professor. I deal in facts. Period.

So what drew me to this book? I arrived at this series against my will.

Last year, my daughter declared Divine Rivals — the first book in this duology — the best book she had ever read and called it her favorite book. Between us, we read hundreds of books a year, so coming from her, this meant something.

There are few people for whom I read books I wouldn’t normally be inclined to like. Life is too short, readers. Let’s keep the DNF culture strong.

There is only one person I would read fantasy for, and that’s my kid.’

So I committed to reading both Divine Rivals and Ruthless Vows, both of which have just enough fantasy for me to stomach. They also have the added benefit of following Iris Winnow, a reporter crusading for social justice, a cause I can get behind. (Check out Rin Huff’s review of Divine Rivals for a complete synopsis and review of the first book in this series.)

Ruthless Vows is a satisfying conclusion to the exquisitely crafted love story that blossomed in Divine Rivals. I liked this book better than Divine Rivals, perhaps because the author could dispense with much of the backstory and jump right in. The pace was quicker and the central problem seemed more urgent. I don’t fault the author for this; it’s just the nature of sequels.

Ross’s vivid descriptions and well-developed characters make this sequel rewarding for fans of young adult fantasy romance.

Two weeks after limping home, battered and lovelorn from the frontlines, Iris Winnow steels herself. The war rages on. Iris misses her journalist husband, Roman Kitt, who has been taken by Dacre to his realm. Dacre is, in a nutshell, bad news and once saved Roman’s life. Yet Dacre heals people just enough to use them as his soldiers to fight, but does not restore their full memory, so Roman’s memories are like Swiss cheese as he’s trapped in Dacre’s castle.

Iris’ heart is filled with hurt but her answer to this is to not stay idle. Before the war, she and Roman communicated through magic typewriters. They use them to do the same in this book, even though Roman does not realize he’s writing to his wife.

“You may not be a goddess, but nor am I a god. Despite our mundane lives, perhaps we make our own magic with words,” Roman writes to Iris, and our hearts break because words are what brought them together.

Readers will root for this love story. As the world crumbles around them, Iris and Roman find themselves drawn back together.

Will they risk everything to save the citizens of Oath? Will their hearts get tangled in the process? Can they recover from all they have been through?

These are questions that raced through my mind as I read.

Back in Oath, everyone lives in denial about the war. But Iris and her best friend Attie decide to go west, young women, and report on the war to bring the truth to the citizens of their town. If they had TikTok they would be live from the front lines hourly.

Once his memory slowly starts to return, Roman has a big question to answer: Should he stay loyal to Dacre, the amnesia-inducing god? Or is it time to risk his life to switch sides to be with the woman he loves?

Will love win? That, for readers, is always the question.

Despite the emotional rollercoaster and cliffhanger of the previous book, Ruthless Vows delivers a satisfying conclusion to the Letters of Enchantment series. Also, despite my disinclination toward fantasy, this series pried open a crack of light in my anti-fantasy reader mind, and I will read more.

In Ruthless Vows, Ross expertly weaves together the threads of love, war, and magic, and left me with a sense of hope and closure.

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