Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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Three girls with three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

Reading this book brought back memories of watching Pretty Little Liars; if you enjoyed the tv show I would recommend this to you! This is a book full of deadly secrets, political intrigue, and a fantasy world where the ruling class is out of touch with the people over whom they rule. While these are ingredients that I love to read, I unfortunately found the execution for Rule to be a bit lacking: the characters were one-dimensional, character relationships to have little to no development to justify their actions, and I was left wanting more worldbuilding. The base ideas are interesting and intriguing, but in my opinion need more development.

The King is dying and with his only heir dead he’s forced to bring his three illegitimate daughters to Court. Whomever can learn and perform the best will earn the right to rule.

➡️ Zofi is a Traveler, part of a nomadic band of people, skilled in the art of tithe and a warrior.
➡️ Akeylah‘s family hates her because her mother died during childbirth, and her father is so abusive that he nearly kills her. My heart breaks for her so much and she is honestly the only character that I don’t hate.
➡️ Florencia or “Ren” is a servant, essentially a handmaid within the castle with aspirations of elevating her station through a strategic marriage. Little did she know that she was royalty. She’s lived her life on the outskirts of Court and is kind of an insufferable jerk.

I found the whole premise of the Blood Ceremony and succession wasn’t explained well. I understand the sense of urgency and why timelines were sped up; however, I was very confused as to why the King’s twin couldn’t assume the throne – something that wasn’t explained until like 85% into the book. That simple omission of explanation until very late made it difficult for me to believe the sequence of events at all as it all seemed ‘convenient’ to move the story along.

One of my biggest pet peeves is conflict for the sake of conflict that could easily be solved by the characters talking to one another, and this plot device is used a lot here. From the Talons not telling Zofi from the beginning where she was going to the sisters not talking to one another sooner (although when they finally did it felt… off?). This may not be an issue for every reader, but I think that plot device and the narrative style worked in concert against the story here. This is a case where I think the third-person omniscient narrative style did this story a disservice because it kills all suspense for the reader. The sisters are all being blackmailed and are obviously distrusting of everyone around them, but because we know what we do the inner monologues suspecting everyone comes across as annoying instead of “WHO COULD IT BE?!?!!?” I feel like by the time the characters caught up to what I had already pieced together I was forced to rehash that information for 1-2 pages, which I didn’t really enjoy. Honestly I would have probably liked the story a lot better if it had all been told from Akeylah’s POV (or if each book centered on a different sister’s POV).

Some of the character conversations were a damn hilarious blessing though, and I really enjoyed those glimpses of character peeking through: “Though Sun knows you’re doing a good enough job in that getup.” “At least I can move. You look like a lobster trussed up for the cooking pot.”For those that enjoy romance, each sister has a budding relationship, one of which is an insta-love f/f relationship (forbidden not for sexuality but for other reasons). I have to say that the side character Vidal is wonderful and I adore him.

It is no secret that I adore worldbuilding, and it is the main thing that can make or break my enjoyment of a book. The only worldbuilding here is really recounting the political history of the region and the wars, which only tells part of the story of this world. There are so many things that I would love to have seen explained more to immerse me into the world, the biggest gap being religion. The characters have an exclamation synonymous with how some say “god” in our world that points to different religious beliefs – sands, seas, sun. I find that beliefs offer a lot of insight into cultural differences and a description into what the practices are between the Reaches would have been an excellent way to create more depth and further point out how different the lives were for people around the Kingdom beyond the color of their skin or whether they were a Traveler.

The magic system was not explained well at all: people that are from Reaches can tithe, which appears to be bloodletting? essentially cut themselves to gain temporary boosts to speed, or invisibility. Apparently the stories go that the gods blessed the people of Kolonya with tithe and that is the reason for their being Superior. There is no explanation as to who can do it, how one learns to do it, or if it is closely regulated. The King insinuates that skills are kept as a close secret for the Talons to have an advantage, yet the Travelers also tithe, and it seems that anyone can? I DON’T KNOW OKAY.

You cannot control your destiny, Mama always said. Only the way you face it.

All of the events of this book are happening as the result of three secrets: actions that each of the daughters made that set things in motion. It is almost poetic and points to perhaps their being manipulated into action – but that doesn’t jive with the whole blackmailer thing, it would be interesting though!

The most enjoyable part of this book was reading it with Destiny; our banter and discussions are what kept me reading to the end more than anything else. If I am being honest, the story felt underdeveloped to me and read more like an early draft, but I read an ARC and I am hoping that some changes were made to polish the story prior to publication. This is a fast-paced read with a lot of political machinations. While this book wasn’t for me, I do hope it is for you and I think that those who enjoyed Pretty Little Liars will enjoy this book.


🤝 Buddy read with Destiny from Howling Libraries!

cw: self-mutilation (the magic system is essentially cutting onseself and it is described in detail), abusive family

Many thanks to Little, Brown for providing me an electronic ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Quotations were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication. You can find information about my rating criteria here.


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Hi! I’m Kaleena: book lover, runner, wanderer, and philanthropist. Life is an adventurous gift: through the outdoors and books. I run Reader Voracious Blog, where I post spoiler-free book reviews of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and mystery & thriller.

20 thoughts on “Rule by Ellen Goodlett

  1. I struggle with one dimensional characters and lack of world building too. I appreciate this honest review. Charlaine Harris with Sookie Stackhouse built one of my favorite all time fantasy worlds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Christine – this was a tough review for me to write. The ideas were solid but it just needed more development; I am hoping some additional changes went into the finished copy. I haven’t read (or watched) the True Blood stuff! Is it really that amazing?!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read the books when I was teaching in Indonesia. They definitely get better as they go and are a higher standard than say Anita Blake.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I don’t think I could stand this book. I HATE HATE HATE when the whole synonymous “God” thing. That’s not world development. I could write a multi-paragraph rant over it haha.
    Based on your review, this sounds pretty poorly developed and like it contains way too many of my pet peeves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Hamad! Knowing your reading tastes I don’t think you would enjoy this book very much (although I would really enjoy reading your hate review afterwards so a part of me wants to tell you to read it lol). I always feel bad writing negative reviews, and I do hope that the finished copy has some changes to it – but I have seen some positive reviews on GR so this book definitely does have an audience!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Welcome 🙂
        Oh, I will wait till it get published to see the general opinion toward it but I trust your review so I won’t probably like it.
        And people like my hate reviews :’)
        you just made my day xD
        I am not a fan of negative reviews either but I also hate spending money and time into a bad book.

        Liked by 1 person

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