Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Rule by Ellen Goodlett
Series: Rule #1
on September 11, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 376
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble// BookBub
Add to: Goodreads // StoryGraph

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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


Three sisters, three secrets, one throne – that is the hook and premise for Rule by Ellen Goodlett. I wanted to fall in love with this story, but found it hard. The start is slow, thought not for lack of story. We learn of each sister’s upbringing and then they’re in court and it just flounders until the very end. Legitimately, the last 15% of the book is where things get exciting and where I went from reading a three star book to what could have been a four or more star book.

Part of issue is that while we jump from each sister’s point-of-view, it doesn’t help flesh any character out fully. Akeylah throughout the story feels like a stock trope character. She is so good and she has suffered so much and she just wants everyone to be happy and birds sing and so on and on and on. Even her secret was unable to add any depth to her character. Even the would be romance, which I am completely excited about, did nothing to make her an exciting character. Zofi and Ren, while exciting, still felt one-dimensional. Ren, the typical schemer who was raised at court, and Zofi, the wild roamer no one can control. They are all introduced this way and they all remain this way through to the end. No real growth, no real depth.

Without character growth, the story struggles through the middle. What carried this for me, were the side characters who seemed as though they had fuller thought and backstories than the main trio. I wanted to know more about Rozalind, about Yasmin, and more especially about Danton whom I still don’t know what to make of or how to feel about.

Yes, there’s the blackmail conspiracy to uncover, but it wasn’t enough to make this exciting. I had two theories from the very start on who the blackmailer could be and by the end, it looks like both may have been correct. The end, now that is what completely made Rule exciting and recommendable. Everything started coming together, sisters started forming alliances, and actions actually had consequences – finally. The ending gives me hope that the conclusion to this duology will be much more fast-paced and that the problematic pacing of this book was only due to setting up the groundwork.

Then, there’s the issue of world-building. I’m hesitant calling this a fantasy story because that part was so underwhelming and barely there. Indeed, I forgot about the ONE magical aspect – tithing. Tithing is a system of blood magic that never really gets an in-depth explanation so that I still don’t know if everyone that lives in Kolonya can do it, or only certain people, or how one learns about all the different tithes or what the limits are – if there are any. It’s so limited, I feel as though it wasn’t really needed for this story. In fact, Rule maybe have worked better as a historical YA story because it’s the intrigue what carries it along.

Rule by Ellen Goodlett is enjoyable in afterthought for the promises it makes about the book to come. If you can find a character to root for (um, Ren is the best, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk), you’ll find yourself invested in the story and everything else will melt away. If you can’t find a character to love, you might have a bit of a difficult time making it through to the end.


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