A powerful mage is removed from a bleak orphanage to serve a usurper queen in Julia Ember’s Ruinsong, a queer re-imagining of The Phantom of the Opera. Instead of using her magical voice to honor her goddess by healing broken bodies, Cadence must use her abilities in ways she never could have imagined—singing to cause pain, fear and supplication among the nobles despised by the queen.
Because she fears for her life, Cadence submits to Queen Elene’s increasingly horrifying demands—until she is unexpectedly reunited with Remi, a friend from childhood and the daughter of a noble family brought low by the queen’s regime. As her feelings for Remi grow, Cadence must confront the consequences of using her magic to do the queen’s bidding.
Ruinsong is a compelling and delicately balanced tale of music and magic with dark undercurrents of destructive power and rebellion. Ember’s lush world building sketches and suggests rather than submerging readers in dense passages of background information. The narrative hints at larger class and power struggles while depicting a society in which rigid notions of gender and sexuality are slowly fading. The literal magic of song swirls through the story as the slow-burn attraction between Cadence and Remi begins haltingly then builds to a roaring crescendo. Ruinsong will delight readers who prefer their fantasy novels with sharp and sometimes concealed edges.