I recently finished up Daughters of Ruin, the debut novel of author K.D. Castner. It’s the story of these four princesses that grow up in a Protectorate Treaty; three of the princesses (Cadis, Iren, Suki) are from countries that have been conquered by the fourth princess’s (Rhea) father (King Declan). They all live in Declan’s kingdom of Meridian, being raised as sisters. Obviously, this doesn’t work exactly how Declan had hoped– the girls seem to despise each other and as the story develops, you really are able to appreciate the depths of their disjointedness. The four girls are thrust into chaos when someone attacks Meridian castle, sending them on separate paths.
I liked that this novel keeps the goodness of each character relatively neutral. You can’t really tell who’s going to betray who, or when. You can’t tell if any of the characters are actually honest. For example, Rhea seems to be a sympathetic character from the beginning: her story begins with grief over how much her sisters despise her. The book teases that perhaps their disdain is just in her head but when you move on to the next few chapters, it becomes clear that Rhea wasn’t just worrying over nothing– her sisters really don’t like her. They believe that she is the weakest of them all, and furthermore, that she cannot be trusted in the future to rule Meridian fairly. Each girl wants to get back to her own home; Suki especially
despises that’s not actually a strong enough word. Suki downright hates Rhea for 1. being chummy with the boy that Suki has a massive crush on and 2. for being Declan’s daughter and 3. for being Rhea. Suki’s hatred is both unparalleled and nearly psychotic– she despises Rhea for existing. Every one of Rhea’s moves is some kind of attack, and Suki feels the need to defend herself. Of course, everyone runs to her side in a fight because she is the youngest and she’s not Declan’s daughter, leaving Rhea very much alone.
Then, in the last chapter, Rhea reveals the truth of her personality: she’s actually been manipulating the playing field. She has known the outcome of this fiasco for the entire duration of this story, or at least, that’s how I interpreted it. Like I said, this book is kind of ambiguously worded
The character I disliked the most was Suki. She’s fifteen years old, precocious, rude, and gives off villain-y vibes. I don’t think that last one was an intended effect of her character. I think that we were supposed to kind of like and sympathize with her, but it was hard to when even her point-of-view is so bratty. By the way, this book revolves through four points of view– Rhea, Cadis, Iren, and Suki. I don’t find these annoying to read but I know many people who hate this sort of format, so be warned.
The plot of the story was… I’m not sure what the plot was, actually. Iren and Cadis flee to Cadis’s home, and Iren plans to go back to her mother’s kingdom soon afterwards. Suki, Rhea and the boy whose name I can’t remember decide to flee as well. I guess that the goal of the characters’ was to find out who attacked the castle and is revolting against the king. Is it Suki’s kingdom? Cadis’s? Iren’s? It turns out that the attack was planned by Declan and his advisor, Hiram (by the way, that is just a bad name. Hiram Burrows. Hiram the advisor. Just evil people all over the place) and that they hope to bring the four nations to war. Why? I don’t really know. It was pretty heartbreaking for Rhea to find out that her father has hated her since the second her older brother died, and to have found out because he screamed it at her before trying to kill the girl. Poor Rhea. But this is the reason why I’m not sure if Rhea has been manipulating people the entire time, or if, after learning the aforementioned facts, something just snapped inside her. I don’t know, there’ll probably be a sequel because by the end of the novel, all four girls hate each other and all four countries are on the brink of war.
This is an okay book to browse through if you’re ever bored or interested in the whole kingdoms/no-one-can-be-trusted/evil-queen scene. I became sort of disinterested by the end of the book. The biggest problem for me was that there wasn’t a single character that I felt I could root for; everyone was a downer. Don’t read this if you’re looking for a solid ending or a happy story. It’s more of a “I-hate-the-world,” kind of story. Gotta say, I love the cover, though the saying holds true: don’t judge a book you know you know.