by K.D. Castner
Published on April 5, 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Meet rumor with quiet, treason with cunning, and vicious with vicious.
Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses. And they are enemies.
A brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye.
For ten years they have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace. But there is no peace among sisters, and all plans shatter when the palace is attacked. As their intended future lies in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.
Alliances shift and the consequences are deadly in this stunning fantasy debut from K. D. Castner.
Four queens, a pact holding them together (loosely), and blossoming hatred between them? Intriguing doesn’t begin to cover it. Sadly, the exciting story I anticipated wasn’t quite the same in practice as on the back of the book. Daughters of Ruin wasn’t one of the 2016 releases I’d heard about until I saw it was available to read on Riveted Lit for free. Looked good, sounded good, so I gave it a chance.
The story follows the lives of four teens raised together as “sisters” as part of a pact for peace. With their countries bordering each other and the crown to pass to them soon enough it seems like a novel idea but perhaps not the most thought-out one. For one, these queens are trained to fight and then, for show, they fight each other. Hell, the opening scene is them having to pretend to be sisters for a show to the kingdom. Yes, lets keep four girls together in close quarters, teach them to be warrior queens, and tell the world it’s all about peace. Clearly someone dropped the king on his head.
So you can see what’s coming next, I’m sure. Rebellion strikes, splitting them up and testing loyalties.
But that doesn’t happen for quite some time.
The first half of the book is spent on a drawn-out scene 10 years in the past where the girls practice their combative skills. Finally, we transition to the present day where they’re constantly on edge around each other, especially the three “prisoners” (Cadis, Iren, and Suki) against Rhea, daughter of the king whose castle they reside in. Eventually, the attack mentioned in the description but we’re already halfway through the book (the rest of that first part spent on exhibitions for the crown by each queen). Loyalties are divided, insert predictable plot twist, conflict ensues. The entire book felt like an almost-fleshed out outline.
There were a few things about this book that annoyed me but the “twist” near the end really set me off and took me away from the story entirely. I found it both unnecessary and more of a plot device to allow for a sequel than anything.
Now to the characters. I wanted to speak about them separately as the book is told from each queen’s point of view in alternating chapters. Each has a distinct voice, making it easy to tell which viewpoint I read from in case I forgot to look at the chapter title.
I liked Cadis the best. Her voice was honest and the most relatable. She also came off as the most “normal” of the four queens, as normal as a seventeen-year-old girl can in her situation. Her background also held a lot of depth that never really had the chance to shine. Of the four, I believe she showed the most character development by the end (and possibly was the only character to really do so).
Iren came in second for intriguing but her narrative was… brief. Like reading a report. Bullet points without the bullet, line by line in a no-nonsense kind of way. It made reading her chapters quick but also left out a LOT of details. She summarized situations so well that the story was lost in her outlook on the world.
Rhea, like Cadis, had a more “normal” style but also more reflective, showing a lot of personal thoughts between comments on the world. What set me off with her was her swooning over their training partner/servant. She also flitted between being nice and nasty, or she’d play the victim, or she’d just stand by and be useless. Really, there was no telling with her. And she was too inconsistent to be likable.
And then there’s Suki.
She. Drove. Me. Insane.
I get that the author wanted to give each one their own voice but IT DIDN’T NEED TO INVOLVE SO MANY PARENTHETICALS. Look, I get it, they’re fun to use (you can see I’m a fan from this review). However, when it’s every other word, I have a problem. I couldn’t even READ Suki’s point of view sometimes because it was more like trying to crack a code. Each tangent thought she had appeared in such a way that I almost skipped the chapters with her (not that they progressed the story much other than to show her devotion to aforementioned training partner). She was the nail in the coffin of this book.
I think Daughters of Ruin would’ve stood a chance if the characters had been given more than just a chapter here and there to truly become multi-dimensional, and maybe a change of the writing style couldn’t have hurt. And hopefully there is a sequel planned that no one knows about because otherwise that ending was beyond unfulfilling.