Reign & Ruin by J.D. Evans

Short Note: This is Team LB=TC^2’s last finalist review of #SPFBO7. Please check out Lynn’s Books’ review for Reign & Ruin here.

Rate: 8.5/10

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

A genuinely entertaining read, Reign & Ruin stirs a full spectrum of emotions, with equal parts steamy romance and suspenseful action. A quick read, Evans keeps the reader easily engaged with the brisk pace of the story and the many twists and turns.

The Sultan’s mental state is deteriorating much quicker than anticipated, resulting in his only child, Naime, struggling to step into leadership in her own right instead of bowing to the ambition-skewed whims of her father’s advisors. As she navigates these treacherous waters alone, the Sultina is locked in a chess match of wits with Grand Vizier Kadir whose schemes threaten everything Naime has fought for. In the quiet time between trading veiled barbs with the council, she personally is mourning the decline of her father, all the while having to hide the extent of his illness.

Evans creates a delightfully strong female leader in Naime whose control during infuriating situations is quite commendable, though her ironclad willpower slips whenever the visiting Prince Makram is present. Will Naime be able to secure her future before she becomes forced to cede power in an unwelcome betrothal? As well laid as her plans may be, her father’s unpredictable mental state offers a constant threat to spoil everything she’s worked for. This quagmire of political maneuvering is employed by Evans to concoct situations where the suspense and stakes are palpable as Naime’s palace of cards increasingly wobbles with every passing day.

The other main character in Reign & Ruin is Prince Makram, who despite wielding immense power, struggles with loyalty and duty to a brother who has allowed his jealousy to blind him. His brother rules a country where magic is dying, except for the controversial Sixth House, whose wielders hold the power of death. With the lack of magic, Makram’s country has instead focused on the prowess of their military might. 

As a much more vast enemy is knocking at the gates, threatening both Makram and Naime’s countries, can they overcome meddling councils, toxic ambitions, and deep-seated prejudices to unite in time to defend against the greater evil? 

The chemistry between Makram and Naime is quite fun to watch unfold, especially as it distracts from the high stakes situations that the two would often find themselves forced to navigate. My curiosity grew with the story as there seemed to be no clear solution in sight. Just as the story seemed at its darkest, Evans had a few twists and turns in store that make for a happy, yet perhaps too conveniently ideal ending. 

While much of Reign & Ruin is spent establishing characters and spicy relationships, I found myself wanting to know more about how the magic works in this particular system. A general understanding of the hierarchy of power and the various Houses are introduced but the details are left vague. Evans did build a solid foundation in this first book of the Mages of the Wheel series that leaves ample questions for the next installments to explore.

Overall, between the pacing and the intriguing chemistry I flew through Reign & Ruin, eager to find what Evans had in store for our love struck couple. 

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • What happened to the Third House mages? If they are all dead, how can one hope more would show up?
  • How powerful are the other Sixth House mages?
  • How did Makram’s brother, Kinus make his escape? Could the relationship be salvaged?
  • I’m totally calling out the chemistry between Tareck and Samira.
  • Why didn’t Makram offer to help the Sultan sooner?
  • Kadir was such an evil mastermind! I wish he had a bit more depth instead of a one dimensional ‘bad guy’. Did he actually attack Ihsan? What does Samira see in his son? 
  • Can other people change their powers like Ihsan? Does Ishan actually want to marry Mutar? If not, will he?
  • Does Naime actually have the same powers as her father but it hasn’t presented itself yet?

Vocabulary Builder

Insipid: lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate, or challenge

Portents: something that foreshadows a coming event

Molder: to crumble into particles: 

Umber: a moderate to dark yellowish brown

Scads: a large number or quantity

Alacrity: promptness in response : cheerful readiness

Druthers: free choice 

Panacea: a remedy for all ills or difficulties

Mien: Appearance

Fugue: a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed

Attrit: to weaken or reduce by attrition

Immolated: to kill or destroy especially by fire


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