In The Ruins of Noe, the sequel to her debut novel Brigitta of the White Forest, Danika Dinsmore outdoes herself in the crafting of this new book. All of the elements that made Brigitta wonderful continue on in this book. It is still just as magical and engaging as the first book, exploring the trials and struggles of the now adolescent protagonist. But the book also distinguishes itself from its predecessor with a darker tone and more mature themes that keep pace with Brigitta’s growth into adulthood.
The fairies of the White Forest rely on the intervention of the Ethereals, the invisible Ancients who help keep the elements in balance in the sheltered realm of the forest. But when the spirit of a dead Elder does not move on and a child is born without a destiny, the Elders who rule the forest realize that something has gone wrong. The Ethereals no longer intervene in their lives, and may not be able to protect the Forest.
High Priestess Ondelle decides to return to the ruined city of Noe, which was the home of the fairies until an apocalyptic event forced them to flee and take shelter in the White Forest. With her she takes Brigitta, who some believe to be the prophesied fairy who will help make things right. In Noe, many illusions the fairies had about the past are shattered. Fairies had been left behind in the flight to the White Forest and their survivors had built up two feuding kingdoms ruled by cruel tyrants. Brigitta is soon alone and friendless in a strange world that would rather have her dead, forced to find a way to solve her problems alone.
As mentioned before, this turned out to be a darker tale than the first book in the series. In Brigitta of the White Forest, there were tense moments but Brigitta was able to solve problems in the end, so that life was returned to mostly normal in the White Forest. In The Ruins of Noe, awful things happen to some characters and are not fixed. By the end of the book many problems remain unfixed. While some of this is to leave room for future sequels, the tone of the book at the end is that there may not be solutions. And while the first book was about learning self-reliance and taking a step towards adulthood, the second book was about having to take on tasks before you’re ready and growing up fast.
In that manner this book also approaches an older audience than its predecessor. Brigitta of the White Forest had a very strong Middle Reader energy, where the story depended on making friends and solving problems. The Ruins of Noe begins to push outside of that towards “young adult” or “teen fiction.” The story has less obvious solutions, hints at a world more complex than previously realized, and begins hinting at a romantic storyline that will see more attention in later books.
I loved this book, despite the anxiety it induced as I worried about the fate of the characters. For young readers who have grown older since Dinsmore’s first book came out, this could be an excellent stepping stone as their tastes and maturity grow.