By Ellen Goodlett
Published September 11, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rule is a terrific young adult fantasy novel.
It’s the story of three young woman who are called to appear before the King of Kolonya. Each of the young women has a terrible secret, and each assumes that the summons means that her secret is out and she’s about to face punishment. All three are astonished when they come before the king and are told that they are his illegitimate daughters and that he’s going to choose one of them to success him since his legitimate son was recently killed.
The three daughters are very different. Zofi is a traveler, a member of a nomadic band that is looked down upon by most of the other people of the kingdom. She loves her life on the road and finds her new existence in the palace torturous. Ren grew up at court as a ladies’ maid, and she understands how this insular society works. Akeylah grew up in an outer province of the empire in an abusive household, so although she’s not exactly sure she’s queen material, she’s relieved to have escaped her previous life.
Characters with secrets are pretty typical in YA fantasy, but often, the secrets turn out to be underwhelming. We learn the sisters’ secrets early in the book, and they are all whoppers that would mean execution if they were discovered. So, when they begin to receive anonymous threatening messages indicating that someone knows their secrets, they all freak out.
The three main characters all have distinctive voices, and although the narration switches in each chapter, I never had any difficulty telling them apart; they’re all very different characters. I found each of them appealing in their own way. There’s a natural rivalry among the sisters at first, because only one can be chosen as heir, even if two of them aren’t particularly interested in the job, and they all initially assume that the mysterious blackmailer is one of the three of them. But as the threats escalate, the three begin to work together. I loved watching them get to know each other, and figuring out their various strengths. Zofi is a fighter, Ren understands court machinations, and Akeylah is the researcher who can find anything in books.
I really liked the magical system in this book. People use blood magic, a system of tithing that gives them boosts in speed, agility, and other abilities. Zofi’s people, unbeknownst to everyone else, have figured out a way to harness the blood magic to their advantage. And there’s a more sinister form of blood magic, the forbidden Vulgar Arts, which involves tithing against someone else’s blood and can be used to curse someone.
The book also has some decent diversity. Most of the characters are described as having darker skin, and one of the sisters is queer. There’s not a ton of romance, but the most prominent is between two women.
I highly recommend this book, and I will be anxiously awaiting the sequel (there’s a big cliffhanger, and I can’t believe I have to wait over a year to find out what happens).
I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.