Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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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.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in this sensational and striking fantasy debut.

Read below for my spoiler-free review. (Thanks to Netgalley for sending me this ARC. This is an honest review and all opinions are my own)

Rule was a pretty refreshing read as far as young adult fantasy goes. Lately, all I’ve been seeing are the same old tropes and non-stop action, but this book took a break from all of that and instead focused on more subtle plot points.

Rule is a story about three girls who are summoned by their king, who also happens to be their father. The girls are thrust into a situation in which only one of them will become queen. But, instead of commencing with combat trials or some sort of competition, as most YA books would do, the girls take on a journey of learning and intrigue on their path to the throne. This book is full of secrets, blackmailing, and political subtleties–all of which culminate in a dark, tense atmosphere that adds depth and complexity to the story. There is some action, but it doesn’t overwhelm as much as it supplements the events that take place. In my opinion, the lack of action didn’t bog down the pace of the book at all–in fact, all the new secrets we learn and the cliffhangers at the end of the chapters made Rule a page-turner. I couldn’t wait to see what happened.

My favorite part of this book was the characters, for many reasons:

  • Representation! This book was filled with a diverse cast of characters, most of which were described as having dark or tan skin and dark hair, and there was still a range of ancestries for all of them–they didn’t all hail from one place, just as POCs today aren’t all Asian or African. Goodlett also normalized bisexuality and homosexuality, which was wonderfully refreshing. She didn’t make a big deal about these relationships–they were completely accepted by society. There are super adorable relationships of both straight and gay couples.
  • History! All the characters had history before the story, as is to be expected. Sometimes I think that authors forget that their characters existed before their story is told. Goodlett thoroughly explored the past of our characters, which made them much more rich and dynamic, and it brought plenty of texture to the single setting.
  • Character and relationship development! Our main characters, the three half sisters, undergo lovely character development; each of them are fully fleshed-out human beings with difficult pasts and unique outlooks on life. I loved reading from all of their perspectives because they added an individual flavor to the story. My favorite aspect was seeing their relationship among each other slowly evolve. The love and companionship that grew was organic and unforced, and watching it unfold made my heart happy.

My one complaint is the world building. Goodlett was quite ambitious, and although I can see she had good intentions, some of it felt like an info dump. The beginning of the book was a bit confusing because we were trying to learn about the characters while also receiving lots of information about the world they live in. Because it is an important part of the story, I think this could have been done a little more gracefully and over a longer period of pages.

Actually, I have one more complaint. The story end on a completely unsatisfying note. It is a huge cliffhanger! I usually don’t like this because by the time the next book comes out, I’ve already forgotten/gradually lost interest in the story. If you’re like me, perhaps its best that you wait for the next book in the series to be released before even starting this one.

Thanks for reading,

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4 thoughts on “Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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