The Rules by Tracy Darnton (Review)

Quote: Who was the monster? Me or him?

The real one, the original, was Honour thy father and mother. But he purged my mother from history. As far as he was concerned, there was only one person who should get the honouring: him.

II was completely drawn in by the cover for this one. Live by the rules, die by the rules? What if the person hunting you taught you everything you know? I love thrillers and I loved the sound of this. It wasn’t quite everything I’d wanted but it was an entertaining read.

Rating: 2.5 stars!

Thanks to Stripes Publishing for the review copy of this book, it hasn’t affected my honest review.

Trigger Warnings: domestic and parental abuse (emotional and physical), ableist and fatphobic comments

The plot:

Amber’s an expert when it comes to staying hidden – she’s been trained her whole life for it. But what happens when the person you’re hiding from taught you everything you know?

When a letter from her dad arrives, Amber knows she’s got to move – and fast. He’s managed to find her and she knows he’ll stop at nothing to draw her back into the extreme survivalist way of life he believes in.

All of a sudden the Rules she’s spent so long trying to escape are the ones keeping her safe. But for how long?

What did I think?

This book was coasting at a steady 2.5 stars for me for most of it, to be honest, but for some reason I just couldn’t put it down. I bumped it up to a 3 stars for the ending though, which I really liked. I liked the premise of the book and I’ve always enjoyed books with a split timeline, in this case split between the current timeline where Amber is on the run from her father and the past where she is trying to escape him. It kept me reading, because there were little hints dropped throughout of stress-tests and Amber’s other secrets, and I was keen to find out exactly how they unravelled. I wasn’t totally blown away by the secrets that were revealed. I guess I kind of expected something more intense or for it to be covered in a more detailed memory section, but that might be my own preference for dark and horrible books showing through!

The plot was interesting, with Amber’s estranged father finally finding her after she’d run away to safety with her mother, a well-intended but ultimately unhelpful attempt by local foster services to reconnect them – with no idea of the truth about her father. I actually really enjoyed the ‘prepper’ aspects of this book, because I love watching tv shows about preppers and while I’m not an expert it felt like Tracy Darnton put in the research on this book. It was also easy to see how Amber’s father fell from regular prepper to a little too far. It was especially on the nose in the current climate!

I think my only real issue was a problem with connecting to the characters. I liked Amber just fine, but felt like she was constantly going against her own rules and thought processes. For someone who ‘trusts no one’, she sure did trust a lot of people! And Josh was kind of, the worst? He tricked her into going to see the father she was running away from. Which like, don’t do that? But I concede that it probably would have been much less interesting if Amber had been sprinting around completely alone in the Brecon Beacons for the entire book or something. And I’m glad that it wasn’t a romance between Amber and Josh. The ending was excellent, and the kind of resolution I was hoping for for Amber, with twists that I didn’t predict. So overall, a shaky three stars for a fairly quick read.

Links:

Add it on Goodreads here!

Buy at Hive if you can and support your local indie booksellers! Also available at Waterstones and Amazon.

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