Everyone is different and likes and dislikes different things. Reading is no exception. One person’s all-time favorite might seem too bland or too high stakes for another. That being said, the opinions of our judges in this contest are just that, opinions. Just because we let a book go, doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It could be your next favorite, who knows?

Now that we are in the finals, we are going to be doing full reviews for each book. The books are being reviewed in no particular order, not in order of their star rating. We are just reviewing them as we finish reading them.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can learn more about the contest here.

Today we are reviewing Reign & Ruin, which was The Fantasy Inn’s pick for this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. You can read their review here. And you can see the finalist spreadsheet here.

Reign & Ruin (cover)“All magic is beautiful,” she said, “and terrible. Do you not see the beauty in yours, or the terror in mine? You can stop a heart, and I can stop your breath.”

She is heir to a Sultanate that once ruled the world. He is an unwanted prince with the power to destroy.

She is order and intellect, a woman fit to rule in a man’s place. He is chaos and violence and will stop at nothing to protect his people.

His magic answers hers with shadow for light. They need each other, but the cost of balance may be too high a price. Magic is dying and the only way to save it is to enlist mages who wield the forbidden power of death, mages cast out centuries ago in a brutal and bloody war.

Now, a new war is coming. Science and machines to replace magic and old religion.

They must find a way to save their people from annihilation and balance the sacred Wheel—but first, they will have to balance their own forbidden passion. His peace for her tempest, his restlessness for her calm.

Night and day, dusk and dawn, the end, and the beginning.

Our Thoughts

Reign & Ruin takes place in the neighboring lands of Tamar and Sarkum as war nips at the edges of their kingdoms. The Republic has been moving closer to their shores and with it the threat of not only being vanquished, but also their magic being snuffed out forever.

But the Wheel turns in mysterious ways. And as Naime, the Sultana of Tamar, tries to steer her kingdom towards repairing their connection with magic, her father slowly fades away, leaving her fighting the royal court tooth and nail away from well tread paths of the present and back to the ancient customs of the mages of the past.

In her fight, Naime finds an unusual ally in Prince Makram of Sarkum. His kingdom lies between Tamar and the Republic and while he sees the danger on the horizon, his older brother the king and his council see nothing they need to worry about.

The two kingdoms have hated each other since the magic war that sundered them. But that’s not the biggest issue between an alliance. Makram is a Sixth House mage—a Death mage—whose kind was banished from Tamar after the war. He will never be accepted by her people, and she, being a woman, is but a glorified trophy to his. But they will fight the politics and prejudice around them, if it means saving their people, and healing the magic of the Wheel.

Our judges were split on this one. The biggest issues for one half, were the some of the biggest favorites of the other.

The things our judges agreed on were many. The story takes place in a country inspired by Middle Eastern cultures. And while some would have loved to see more of the world, all were excited to read something not based on a European setting. The magic was made up of elemental houses a person is born into, and its mages power levels are set at birth. The way the powers the mages command and how they interacted with each other was interesting and used to great effect.

The things our judges disagreed on were fewer, but more dividing. The story is very politics based, heavy on scheming and planning, rather than battles and derring-do. There are battles and shows of magic, but that is not the focus of the story. It is also a romance heavy book. And not just in a flirtatious way. There are many scenes of lusting after each other and a few, quite long, full on love scenes. Our judges either loved or hated these factors and that is overall why the score hit so close to the middle of the scale.

If you are a fan of unique story settings and magic AND enjoy politics and some sexy times. This is definitely a book you need to read!


I thought there was too much politics in this one. I would have enjoyed more time spent worldbuilding or fleshing out the character’s personalities. Still, good writing. Just… so many politics. So many.


So far this is my favorite book I’ve read in the finals. I’m not normally a romance person, but for some reason this one just hit all the right chords. I loved the setting, the magic, and the writing. I loved how the various side characters interacted with the main characters. I loved that neither of the leads were ever useless, and that they were not prone to doing stupid things for no reason or withholding thoughts or plans from each other for no reason. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but in romance books that happens a lot.

The bad guys were also either really competent, or extremely hot-headed, which made for a nice balance. There weren’t a lot of surprising twists, but it was a very satisfying story. It was also nice to read something a little brighter and I’m looking forward to reading the next one!


I like the setting, and the Sultana grasping for power in a world run by men. I always favour something that isn’t “medieval Europe take 2 million and a half”. I found the magic interesting but would have wanted some more insight into it personally.

However, the romance isn’t my thing at all and makes it really hard for me to enjoy the rest of the story. I had to skim read quite a bit to get past the foreplay or sex scenes, and those just hold no interest for me.

Some of the constant repetitiveness also annoyed me. We’re getting told, “He can’t use his magic, so he doesn’t reveal himself” over, and over, and over again. Same for how they attract each other, but must not give in. (And yet, obviously they do…)

The scheming and dialogues felt quite predictable and at times a bit stilted. Some little bits in the plot also did grind on me a bit, and felt more convenient to create plot drama, than an organic bit of the story.

I did quite enjoy the political side of the book though, opposed to some of the other judges.


I actually liked Reign & Ruin in spite of the predictable plot and the about 60 – 70 pages devoted to procreation. The thing that annoyed me was how the author put in dialogues, that may or may not have been pertinent to the plot, in the middle of coitus. I skim read some of it, but then I decided to skip all of it and let the dice fall where they may.


I could tell after the first 20% this book was not the type of book I am overly fond of. I skim read a lot of it to pick up the storyline and did read the last 20-25%, but it never engrossed me. Some nice prose, an interesting magic system, and I’m right there for some great political intrigue but I personally am not a fan of romance scenes that are longer than a couple of paragraphs.

– – –

Our judges are Amber Freeman, Jennie Ivins, Julia Kitvaria Sarene, Kartik Narayanan, Kerry Smith, and Lynn K. If you’d like to learn more about us, including our likes and dislikes, you can read about them here.

Any queries should be directed at me, Jennie Ivins, via DM on Facebook and Twitter.


By Jennie Ivins

Jennie is the Editor of Fantasy-Faction. She lives with her math loving husband and their three autistic boys (one set of twins & one singleton). In-between her online life and being a stay-at-home mom, she is writing her first fantasy series. She also enjoys photography, art, cooking, computers, science, history, and anything else shiny that happens across her field of vision. You can find her on Twitter @autumn2may.

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