It’s always a thrill to find a book by a debut author.
When I picked up Daughters of Ruin, by K.D. Castner, from the local library BookMobile, I had no idea that I was selecting a debut author’s novel. It was the only YA fantasy that caught my eye, so I checked it out, unsure if I would even have time to read it. But once I started, I found myself drawn into the story.
The premise of the book is not entirely unique, even if the execution is. Four girls are heirs to four kingdoms, and after a bloody war, three of them are taken as wards into the household of the fourth and her father, the new King of Pelgard. The objective is to have them grow up as sisters in the hope of future peace for the four kingdoms.
Daughters of Ruin opens with intense action. Readers are thrust into a situation where four girls are caught in a carriage take-over, only to discover that it was a training exercise. The divisive relationship between the girls is quickly apparent in the way they interact.
Fast forward ten years. Rhea, daughter of the king, feels like an outcast, unloved by the three sister-wards. She wants their affection but knows there’s no way to get it. Iren is a quiet and studious queen who offers her other sisters little more than quick wit. Suki, the youngest, is selfish, brutish, and vicious. She wants what she wants and doesn’t think anyone else her equal or care for them. Cadis is the strongest warrior of them all, brave and selfless and beautiful. She wants the people of Rhea’s kingdom to love her, but when trouble starts, she knows it will never happen.
During the Revels festival, the palace is brutally attacked, and the sister’s alliance is put to the test to survive the plot. But as the truth of what’s really happening—and who they really are—comes to the surface, their lives are forever changed.
I won’t lie. I enjoyed the book immensely, and feel that I should state that fact before launching to the review itself. The girls are all very different and written with different voices, which gives them a great distinction. The twists and turns of the plot keep me turning the page to see what will happen. The love and lies and deceit and treason are all intricately woven together, lending toward a greater, more epic tale.
Unfortunately, the book doesn’t deliver that epic story. The book takes 128 pages just to establish the relationship between the four girls. While it was entertaining and relatable, the part of the story I wanted, the potential shattering of their unification, takes far too long to come around. And when things turn sour everything happens so fast that I feel Castner could have taken a little more time with some of the other details leading to the ending.
One of the strangest things about this book, for me, was the way Castner chose to write the voice of Suki. The idea was to show that her thoughts were scattered and that she’s a little bit on the crazy side. But the use of parenthetical phrases is overwhelming as a reader. It works because it leaves me just as lost in the thoughts as Suki, having a hard time following them. It doesn’t work because I found myself getting lost in the thoughts, unsure where one started, and the next stopped. Often, I had to skim back to try again.
Suki looked down. The entire top of her dress was red now. “I stabbed two of them and hobbled that one,” said Suki. (She didn’t mean it as a brag (only that she felt the need to tell someone what she’d done (but it was in defense of innocent people (and if not innocent, then at least people who weren’t blowing up parties (and interrupting dances)))).)[i]
The end of the book is (spoiler) wide open and unresolved. I assumed this meant there was another book coming, and so looked it up, hoping for a release date or press release or something (anything) to answer the question. But there was nothing. I couldn’t even find social media links or a website for the author to seek answers through or try to connect. K.D. Castner is a ghost. No images of the author. No links to connect. Nothing. I can’t say if there is another book coming, but I’m not holding my breath.
I really wanted to give this book four stars. I struggled with it. In the end, I had to acquiesce and pull back to only 3 stars simply because of the open ending and no promise of a follow-up.
Whenever I write a review of the book, I always ask myself the same question. “Would I recommend this to others?” Unfortunately, that’s a harder question to answer this time than it normally is. I struggled with the answer because I enjoyed the book so much, but also felt disappointed with ending. In the end, I decided that a recommendation comes with two stipulations:
- That the book has a sequel coming where we get to see what happens to Pelgard and how the sisters either align or don’t with each other. Unfortunately, I can’t find evidence of book two. Only the publisher and the author can tell us that.
- If you want a fun story to read and understand that the ending may not be all that you want it to be, leaving you with just as many questions as you had at the start, then I would say it’s a fantastic
Feel free to leave comments and tell me what you think of this book.
[i] Page 140 Daughters of Ruin