Author: Ellen Goodlett
Released: September 11 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Rating: 3.63 (of 361 ratings)
The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.
Or rather, three unexpected options.
Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone. Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom. Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.
When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.
Warning: Do not read this review if you dislike rant-style reviews, do not want plot elements in Rule to be spoiled, or were involved in the production of Rule. My goal is not to offend anyone but to express my own confusion and distaste experienced during this particular reading — if this will be uncomfortable for you for whatever reason, then please click off the page.
I started Rule with a lot of excitement, picturing an intricately fabricated fantasy world with its three main characters at the center, vying for the crown while fighting to hide their secret pasts. Um, the fantasy world somewhat delivered but the secrets were just not secretive and the characters were lackluster and I almost DNF’ed this book three times.
Rule was entirely too predictable. In the first three chapters I knew what secrets the main characters were hiding and I really hope Goodlett intended for me to guess, because the answers were just … glaring. (I actually sent the following as messages to a friend after reading each chapter, only to find out yup, I was pretty on point.)
- CHAPTER ONE: We meet Zofi who alludes over and over to the dark deed she did and how E. “suffered the consequences” and she keeps thinking about “the blood.” HUH. I wonder if it was a murder that E. took the blame for.
- CHAPTER TWO: We meet Akeylah who keeps staring at a magical scar on her leg that she doesn’t want anyone to see because she used forbidden magic which = death sentence. And she keeps saying how that scar will lead to the “end of her father.” I WONDER IF SHE CAST A MAGIC SPELL TO KILL HER DAD I REALLY DO.
- CHAPTER THREE: We meet Ren who refers over and over to D., who she had a dalliance with and how she “maybe said too much” and she also has thoughts of those “poor men” and the “burning ships from when our country was attacked in that surprise attack that no one could have known about.” JUST. LIKE.
Maybe the obviousness of the secrets could have worked if either A) the characters were more fleshed out or B) I didn’t get each of their PoVs. But that wasn’t the case.
- FLAT CHARACTERS: OMG. These girls are now directly in line for the throne and their thought processes are equivalent to a third graders’? Ren was slightly better, but most of the book the girls were reduced to the simplest decision making processes. Zofi killed someone because they were cruel. YES. YES THAT CAN BE A THING. But we don’t get any reflection from her about that. You murdered someone, Zofi. Why do you never think “can a murderer be a ruler” or “should I feel guilt.” It’s just “yup, he was cruel, so I killed him, the end.” All the decisions the girls make are elementary. I’m hungry, I eat. He’s mean, I kill. I don’t like it here, I run. No reflection on actions or thoughts about meanings.
- CONFLICTING POVS: This was a negative experience for two reasons. FIRST, a character will sound like one thing in their own POV and then completely different when another character talks to them from a different POV. In one example, in Ren’s POV she talks sympathetically about E. being captured … and then when in Zofi’s POV, Ren’s all “he confessed, he’s guilty. UHH. SECOND, because the characters have revealed all their secrets in their respective POVs, the book drags a lot during chapters when they start to think “omg I think Zofi is the one blackmailing me!! I think Akeylah is blackmailing me!!” Like, no, it’s not, I literally know it’s not because I read her POV. But I still have to read whole chapters of the girls suspecting each other and it’s loooong and pointless.
A central conflict in the book (man vs. society) was that the king was neglecting the Reaches, the outer regions of the country/territory. This brought about a rebellion, and our main characters were like “oh no are the rebels good are they bad?” But … what even are the Reaches?? How do they interact with Kolonya? I don’t even know what this is so how do I care?
I got a few lines throughout the book like “the outer Reaches are the limbs of Kolonya” but what does that even mean? Can I get some actual lines like “oh, yes, in the east we have mountains and we gather stones for building and also miners live there–” But okay, limbs.
Once the first three chapters laid out the secrets, I wasn’t sure what exactly was left for the book to go on. I thought a huge part would be discovering what the girls hid. WELL. Thankfully I recorded a lot of my thoughts on the plot (part of what kept me from DNFing) and here we are.
- A few more chapters pass and the girls are brought to the palace where the king is like “surprise, you’re my daughters I decided to tell you now because my son was horribly murdered a few months ago (*cough cough*) and I’m going to pick one of you to be my successor and I know we don’t know each other at all oh well have free run of my castle!!!” No legitimately. The king doesn’t have any private meetings with them ever in this book, does not have anyone look into their past, does not assign guards to watch them. Because kings, particularly ones with murdered sons, are truly very trusting.
- The next day the king holds a huge ceremony in front of the nobles and courtiers to be all “hey guys here are my illegitimate children, one will be your ruler soon yay!” (I’m just not over how casually all of this is going down.) Akeylah walks around waiting for it to start when this super hottie walks up and OMG AKEYLAH CAN’T TEAR HER EYES FROM HER PLUMP LIPS HER SOFT SKIN HER BEAUTIFUL EYES it’s insta love the two touch and it’s like !!!!! I mean full on mutual FEELLZZZZ. Then oh shit it’s the king’s wife. After everything I’ve already been through in this book I don’t know why I was surprised?
- Each girl receives a blackmail message telling them YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE. Many chapters pass where the girls suspect pretty much every single person that walks by them of being the blackmailer no matter how absolutely ridiculous. Each girl spends on average five pages of internal monologue suspecting someone before completing moving on to someone else and never thinking about the other person again.
I mean, I said this would be a spoiler rant review? I thought the ending would atone. I thought I would get this huge shocker because at the very least, this book did have a lot of random twists (so maybe this would be a random twist end?). Uhhh, okay so I got that but not exaactly what I was looking for.
The girls catch the blackmailer. They confront the blackmailer with proof that could shame them out of the country. The blackmailer is like “Look, you don’t understand …. all the things I could tell you!!” And for once, for once in this book there is a secret I don’t know and I’m like oooh, yes, please tell!
And the girls are like, NO. Stay silent forever and we will not shame you out the country.
Wut. Why. WHY. There is no logical reason to DO THAT. Shame them AFTER YOU GET THE INFO SERIOUSLY. And then the blackmailer dies (murder? suicide? it is unclear) and the king goes catatonic and in a weird twist ending one of the sisters, Ren, is taking a bath when the REAL BLACKMAILER shows up and either kills her or tries to kill her THE END.
To activate magic in this book, people must use blades to cut their skin. As a result there are frequent scenes of self-injury.
I only finished this book because you know I don’t DNF. I always like to see if there is a plot point that redeems, or things I dislike are explained. In this case, no. I don’t recommend.
Did I just write a novel about a novel? Have you read Rule? Are spoiler reviews okay … in the right context?