They Who Rule

by Sii

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity
  • Sexual Content
  • Traumatising content

They watch. They weigh. They rule.

The Tu'i preside over the shadowy Motu 'Oe 'Otu Tu'i. Their tournaments run in perpetuity, constantly feeding their need for death and carnage. As the Advent of the 12th approaches, their machinations kick into overdrive. Some wish to see their leader's long-awaited demise. Others revel in the chaos. And still, others only live for the fight. 

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Sii

Sii

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Hi_Im_Ren
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Character

A seriously fresh and unique world

Reviewed at: Ch. 7 - Liu 'a moko

Why you should read this book

Many people read books for a lot of different reasons. Some may seek new and unique experiences. Others find comfort in the familiar, and this book is anything but familiar to me. This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. If you want to experience something new, I highly recommend you dive into this delightful novel.

This novel is clearly inspired by pacific islander culture; you can tell straight from the description and the chapter names. This gives the book a feel to it unlike any other. Instead of a generic fantasy environment, the author takes great care in crafting something exceptional.

I can’t sugarcoat it. This book is difficult to pick up and start reading. However, if you keep reading and give it a chance, you’ll find something beautiful and thought-provoking.

Critique

Accessibility

One of the biggest challenges that I can see this book facing is one of accessibility. Let’s start by talking about vocabulary. The story uses many elements from the pacific islands. This gives the story a unique feel that would be difficult to find in any other story. For the most part, the story does a decent job of explaining these to us.

“The larger one drew his povai, a large, ornamented war club that had a variety of metals and gems inlaid in it.”

However, a few cases may cause quite a degree of confusion to a general audience.

“A long tupenu, a sarong usually worn by men, clung to his shapely legs, cinched tightly with a braided rope wrapping all the way around his hips like a belt.”

This will always be an incredibly tricky task, and readership could be lost if they click off the novel to look up a sarong.

“I’ll be adding a glossary and pronunciation guide and consistently updating it with any foreign terms I may use to help make the reading experience easier.”

Once this is added, this issue will improve. I look forward to the glossary.

One other thing that impacts the fiction’s accessibility is the lack of names; now, this is an element in the story, so it can’t be fixed easily. In place of names, it often refers to people as “members.” This occurs very frequently in the double digits per chapter. I think that the work would benefit from some more variety in how it refers to characters.

The combination of these factors results in a story that can be challenging to start reading. However, once you manage to get through that, you’ll be greeted with an incredibly original book.

Grammar

The book’s grammar is mostly perfect, but a few things could use a touch-up. One common mistake seen throughout the fiction is missing hyphens. For instance, “Twenty five” becomes “Twenty-five.”

Another mistake is quite a few missing commas after introductory phrases.

“Once finished he then took a handful and pounded his chest, filling the gap that he’d left beforehand.” Becomes “Once finished, he took a handful and pounded his chest, filling the gap that he’d left beforehand.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book, and I think that you will too!

Daniel Newwyn
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

Takes a while to warm up to this

Reviewed at: Ch. 7 - Liu 'a moko

"They Who Rule" by Sii takes place on a Pacific island around Tonga, Fiji, and nearby islands. I'm lucky that when I come around to continue reading, I got to have a look at the glossary to have a clearer sense of the terms used in the book. This makes it an easier read than some readers that have reviewed before me. 

 

The story starts out with lots of conversation and introduction to many characters at once, which was overwhelming for me at first. There are things that can be done at the beginning (eg. maybe to start in a way that lets the author describe the place and the customs) to avoid this confusion. After reading on, I realize that they're holding fights in an arena where people from all over the world are invited to participate. After a while, these people are simply reduced to numbers, which makes me feel how they're yet just another unimportant figure trapped in this strange island, aiming for the same trophy from the enigmatic Conglomerate. When everything clicks, it's just a matter of enjoying the very well-written fight scenes and descriptions. With neat grammar and coherent dialogs, the story flows well as we get to explore the world at a slower pace.

 

The voice of the characters are unique, and their characterisation are aptly done. I'm very impressed by the particular brass by Taha, who, although speaks English, still talk in a way that maintains the soul of his motherland. In contrast, the foreigners from the West, (eg. the Father) almost speaks a different language from their tone and attitude.

 

All in all, this book is a well-written book set in a culture that's very interesting to me. I'll come back to read this and I encourage others to try too.

Razzmatazz
Overall
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Tough shell to crack, but good inside!

Reviewed at: Ch. 6 - Tafe sino'i vai

As of this posting this story has 6 chapters and I’ve read all of them.

So, this one was difficult for me at first. The basis of the story is that on the island of “Motu ‘Oe ‘Otu ‘Tu’i” a collective known as the Tu’i reside. The Tu’i hold a sort of no bars arena where many different people from different places are invited to to fight. Some among them mortals, others among them more divine or powerful. Some use magic, some use rifles etc. Very diverse in that sense. The people who come here all come with an intent to win, their desire to do so fueled by romantic stories of fame and fortune. However a change is coming onto the world and now more than ever the participants need to ask themselves why they are risking life and limb to fight here.

Okay. Right off the bat let me tell you that the first two chapters are a real mouthful if you read them aloud. I’m not an English native speaker and I am especially not familiar with the proper pronunciation of the (Maori? Pacific Islander?) names and terminology used here which make the beginning really, really hard for me to get into with any decent flow as there are so many characters and words thrown at you from the get-go that I didn’t quite know where to put my feet to stand upright. We’re more or less thrown right into the middle of the things which really made a hard start in my opinion.

However around chapter 3 the writing seems to slow down to a pace I can keep up with, or maybe at this point I have simply managed to adjust haha. There are interesting mixes of technology and magic in this story. Worth nothing for sure though is that the magic used here seems to be overwhelmingly deistic/primal/shamanistic in its nature and not so much ‘I cast magic missile at the darkness’ which gives it a very unique flavor.

Grammarwise I found nothing wrong. I noticed no points of incoherence and I felt the flow of the writing (apart from my own personal lacking in understanding) was strong.

It’s tricky at first, but that is also what gives it a strong individuality. I am keen to see how it develops!

Kyuun
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

They Who Rule, a modern fantasy written around Pacific Islander culture. This novel is the most unique I've found on RR. The other reviews go into great detail about the language used in the novel, so I won't touch on that. I will be focusing on my experience.

The story is a combat tournament where multiple cultures and people with awesome magic compete against one another. On the surface, it may seem like a very simple story but I assure you it is not. This is one of the most original tournament-themed novels I have ever read. And I've read plenty. It does take a while to get into the story but when you do, it's very worth it. I found myself enjoying it more after a couple chapters in.

The style is a bit tricky. On one hand, the prose is beautiful and it's clear the author has experience writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the diction and the descriptions of certain things. On the other hand, the prose can sometimes feel clunky. Often times I found myself pulled out of the novel because I got confused and the words felt like they were dragging on. I got the feeling that the author was trying too hard and overexplaining. The "flow" in a novel is important and sometimes that flow felt... heavy? If that makes sense? Even so, the style is still very good.

I saw no problems with the grammar. Not once did it hinder the reading experience for me. Perfect in that regard.

The characters are all very interesting, though, it does take some time to know all of them. It can get very confusing (especially in the beginning) because the novel has a lot of POV switches and it doesn't give itself time to focus on a set character. So, if you're like me, you might struggle keeping tabs on who's who. It can feel like a lot of information at once, so much so that you may even forget details of what happened in past chapters or even mix up characters. However, once you get into it, you're introduced to a very interesting set of characters who each have their own flair about them. The author does a great job at explaining these characters, so once you do get to know them, you will find yourself interested.

Overall, They Who Rule is a novel that may turn you away in the beginning. It can be confusing and difficult to read. That alone is enough to scare away anyone. But I implore you to keep reading because what you find may be just what you're looking for. The novel is well-written, original, and rich in culture. Give it a try or you may lose a potential favourite.

Graffiti
Overall
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Witchcraft magic, gore, and sexy times

Reviewed at: Ch. 7 - Liu 'a moko

I thoroughly enjoy reading fictions that take creativity and originality to a new level instead of following formulas that are known for grabbing attention. They Who Rule is probably one of the best examples of going against the grain when it comes to magic, lore, violence, and characters.

 

Style: The strongest point of the story for me is the unique style that gives it a fingerprint identity from typical fantasy fictions. Everything from the characters, the lore, and the descriptions have a blend to them that makes it a distinctly enjoyable read. Like, there's a scene where a character is getting healed and the way it happens (and is described) is just gross as fuck. And I liked it, because it was different! This played a part in boosting my score, cause trying something new isn't always well received. But I'm all for it.

 

The fighting scenes are also hella visceral and barbaric, which is some of my favorite shit to read. 


Grammar - Pretty much nothing to say here. The names and whatnot might not roll off the tongue when you say them aloud, though. Some of the sentences are kinda clunky too. But overall? Solid foundation. Cant really say you'd be put off by the structure.

 

Story - It's a bloody fighting tournament between different cultures and people with magic and gore. Short. Simple. Works. You're reading more for how everything is told rather than waiting on some miraculous against the norm shock reveal. If you like blood and guts (along with sexy time scenes and horror descriptions) you'll like the story.

 

Characters - Another unique part of the story that I love. Each character has a distinct identity and feel to them despite how ... "odd" their screen time is, if that makes sense? I wouldn't say that they don't get any screen time. But, they don't get enough. I'm capable of keeping up with multiple characters rather easily more often than not. But there were a few times where I had to go "... wait was this the guy from X or Y?" Or similar. Takes some getting used to.

Though, there's a lot of ambiguity in the roster as well, which is a downside. I get not wanting to describe droves of people and only referring to the fodder as well, fodder. But it does drag down the overall tension level somewhat sometimes. Nothing too bad though.

 

OVERALL I like the story and the creative approach so much that my score has been boosted (slightly. Not inflated) the score for me. If you're looking for a more unique type of cold-blooded fiction, this is probably for you.

CloverCloverClover
Overall
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Story
Grammar
Character

Ambitious, but intro may prove a hurdle

Reviewed at: Ch. 17 - Faka'ahu

Warning: I will try to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but I may drop some information here and there. 

Story:

A modern fantasy focusing on Pacific islander culture that revolves around a mysterious combat tournament, where fantasy counterparts of some faiths, and some more mysterious opponents, compete. 

I will say, I think the beginning of this story is a challenge for readers. It's definitely a unique setting, but it feels like we are dropped into it very quickly - even from the very opening of the very first chapter. When I first began reading this story, I actually checked to see if I hadn't accidentally clicked on the second chapter by accident instead of the first, just because the opening to the first chapter seemed so abrupt. And what adds to the difficulty is that many characters are introduced early on, very quickly, as well. 

Eventually, no matter how unusual a setting may be, you want to get to a point where you can discuss the concepts and characters in it with ease, knowing that the readers will be able to follow along. However, the more unique the setting is, the more you have to buid up to that point, by slowly detailing new characters and concepts in their introduction. Here, the beginning of the story often felt as if I was reading the middle of a fantasy novel, where these concepts had already been introduced and the author was assuming that readers were somewhat familiar with them. The glossary helps, but it's not enough to substitute for the slower introduction I think this story really needs. 

Style:

As far as writing style goes, the author dedicates plenty of time to describing the envrionments and the fantastical actions going on, but I still found myself having trouble picturing what exactly was going on sometimes. I think it's part of the general rule that the more fantastic, weird or unusual something is, the more time you have to spend describing it in order to draw the reader in. I think this is possibly exarcerbated by the large number of characters we switch between, as well. But for the most part, the author does a good job of describing action: description of environments and people could sometimes feel a little sparse. 

Grammar: No mistakes noticed here.

Character: 

It takes a while to warm up to individual characters, just because there are so many of them that we switch back and forth between. They're characterized well, it's just that with 'screentime' split between so many of them, we don't get to see that much of each individual one for the amount of words written so far. I just recently began warming up to Enkolu and Wha in the later chapters, as they got some more focus that showed the more playful side of their personalities. 

Overall:

What the author is trying to do here is very ambitious - a fantasy in a unique, unfamiliar setting with a very large cast of characters. I think if you can get through the overwhelming introduction, you can start to catch on and enjoy the story - but it takes a big investment on the part of readers who might be scared away by the introduction. If I had any advice, I'd say maybe start out by focusing more on fewer characters, making them likable to the readers, and then more slowly expanding the cast as the story goes on. 

If you can get past the hurdle of the overwhelming introduction to the setting and the characters - and I do think it's a hurdle that may scare away readers - the story begins to show its charm and appeal; weird creatures, a somewhat mysterious tournament, and mischievous, bickering, demigod-like characters. I'd say that maybe what it needs most - although I don't know if this is what the author wants - is a set of characters whose eyes this story is PRIMARILY told through. Not to say that you can't switch to different perspectives, but a consistent set that we return to more often might help readers settle into the world you've created. 

Raskaro
Overall
Style
Story
Grammar
Character

It takes time to know if you are fond of it

Reviewed at: Ch. 9 - Ma'ama'a 'a hiki papa

Exclaimer that this is a review swap, so you are advised for any bias that I might show subconsciously.

The idea it starts is a fine one—not bad nor average nor excellent, and the author's use of language, as many have told before me, is one aspect that might help you get interested in.

What else there is that can interest you?

A tournament/battle royale, supernatural beings, a multitude of characters that can already be seen as rivals and enemies (tournament, you see, but even further than that) a fresh culture for many all around the world be it west or east, an excellent grammar with very little to few mistakes in.

The Tu'i are a strange bunch that, although a little rough, are hard to hate or dislike. Their attitudes, their perspectives are the first that might hook you in amidst the blurry events. And it is something fresh that we can see this tournament from the organizer's position first. 

Culture is fresh. It is brand new, wondrous to those unfamiliar with Tongan, or Polynesian Culture(Correct me if I am wrong about their relation) With the mass abundance of western and recently eastern fantasy, with mass-repeated worlds and concepts and creatures and plots, it is well welcome to see another change in perspective and culture.  

Grammar is excellent. The author assures with confidence, and I agree. I don't remember seeing any glaring issues, nor a minor mistake except at one place that I skimmed over because I wanted to go down the next pharagraph and see what happened next.

Then, what is up with these scores?

The keyword is interest.

While the concept itself is quite fine, it is bad in it that you can't realize its range and scope and its nature a few chapters in. This isn't bad on its own, but the problem is the overwhelming injection of knowledge.

Characters are an issue that does not contribute to this problem. There are too many introductions. From one perspective to another, always moving back and forth without understanding who is what in relation to whom is too big fault to ignore. When you seem to grasp one side, it moves to a fresh one, then another one. To the impatient readers, and I assume from myself that many are not too patient, this might be a huge turn-off.

The perspective is another. While we travel through the eyes of the characters, a large portion of them know where they are and what they are doing, and so do not need to comment on anything—that is what I understood at least. This makes it difficult to learn more about the culture except descriptions from the narrator on appearance. This reflects on the story as well—were it not for the synopsis, or for the reviews for that matter, it would be much harder to understand that this is a story about a fighting tournament against supernatural beings. 

Yet other than them, there doesn't seem to be anything that could be an issue.

The direction is clear, and while it seems too big of a task to get through at first, to those that are fans of this niche category and work—those that like fights and tournaments, relationships between different factions, and a wide cast of characters, it can be reccomended.


Boxie Boxie
Overall
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The synopsis remind me Kengan Ashura, an epic bloody area between many fearsome warriors. But there is something specail about this, the way you added your culture and turned it into a specialty to invite readers to your world. The native language can make them hard to follow or confuse a bit, but luckily, we have glossary so problem is sovled!

About the story, it is one of the most original thing that I've ever seen. When you read through, or simply glance at the chapter title, you may misunderstand this is a story of another country. But no, this is a combination of two languages, universal and traditional, creating a unique universe. And of course, when we come into contact with something new and strange, it will take a while for us to get used to it. This is a small drawback because your novel is not for impatient readers.

The grammar, I have nothing to complain about except few mistakes in punctuation, but that's not a big deal.

The characters, each as an indispensable identity in creating an interesting arena, full of action-packed action with a variety of combat expressions. Unique, personal, well-built and they make a good impression.

Overall, this is new to me so maybe I can miss out few things but still, I can sure that with the desire to convey the tradition of the nation into the story, this is a definite well-quality fiction.

 

TheHex
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A promising, yet complex original.

Reviewed at: Ch. 13 - Fetoumoliliu'aki

They Who Rule is… Unique. I believe this is the best word to describe it. Though I have read through a multitude of books and web novels, this is my first time coming across such a story. The whole focus on Pacific Islander culture brings an exquisite flavor to the table, albeit one that I’m not sure everyone would be able to enjoy. Even after reading multiple times through the glossary, the names still sounded very confusing to me. I had to leave the glossary open in another tab and alternate to it most of the times when a different word came up, which kinda detracted from my overall experience.


Style: That’s… Hard. I like the general style, but the unique words are a complete deal-breaker for me. It might seem like they wouldn’t cause much trouble, but they do. Whenever one comes up, it feels like I tripped during a sentence. My brain goes: ‘Hey, what does that mean again?’ and of course, after that there’s the pronunciation. It makes me hang. There’s the glossary, to sort of mitigate this issue. But quite honestly? It does nothing for me. It might be because of my mother tongue, but to me, those words just work as major disruption of my reading pace. Not understanding the names of the chapters at first glance is also another serious blow to my opinion of the style, since the name of chapters is usually what catches my attention before starting a new story.


Grammar: Flawless, as far as I can tell. Though english is not my main language, so take that with a grain of salt.

Story: Oh boy… Where do I even begin? A big, mythical tournament. Lots of characters, lots of factions and lots of introductions. I honestly felt a bit overwhelmed by the speed at which all that information was thrown at me. However, once I got a grasp of what was going on, I started to understand— or at least I’d like to think I did— the direction in which the story was going.

Character: Many characters, multiple PoVs. That’s something I like. From the chapters I read, the characters seemed well developed and interesting. They are all very unique and that makes me want to know more about them. However, I felt that jumps from one perspective to another happened a lot more frequently than what I’m used to. Again, a bit overwhelming— confusing even, at some points. But do take into consideration that I’m not a native english-speaker, and that I prefer less complex stories and prose.

 

Overall: It has potential. It’s a very unique story, and a very well written one at that. But I’m not gonna lie… It’s not for everyone. It takes time to understand what is going on, and the multiple and fast-paced jumps in perspective don’t help with that— at all. I would say that this kind of story is more oriented towards experienced readers. I’ll keep an eye on the story, because I want to know how it will progress. If I find the need to, I will update the review later.

Highlord_of_Iron
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For sake of transparency, this was left as a part of a review swap.

This is a story of gods, of combat, and deception. It takes place in a realm filled with shadow, a grand tournament to see who shall rise from the candidates to become the next Tu'i. Theoretically.
At least, that's as far as I got. As many other reviewers have noted, this story is a challenge to get into, for a few reasons.

To the specifics:



Style: The author has a clear sense of what he wants the world to look like, and it is an interesting world indeed. His action scenes are punchy, brutal, and effective. His dark tone, reflects the tint of the shadow hanging over the strange locales, which he lays out in vivid details. It is excellently executed.



Story: The basic layout, from what I have read appears to be quite straightforward on its face, however due to the meticulous layering of information over time, I suspect it has hidden depths. It is a slow burn, it builds, trickling in information, slowly fleshing out the world, its machinations moving inexorably forward. This story clearly wants to take its time, setting all of the pieces into place. It is though for me, a bit too slow however.



Grammar: The author, has an excellent grasp of the tools of his trade. I only spotted one error in the eleven chapters I read, and it was a very, minor one. There were spots where the writer erred from ‘proper’ structure, however its clearly from a place of knowing where the rules can be bent, coming off more like speaking than writing. It works, rather effectively.



Characters: This is for me, the sticking point. The story, clearly has finds inspiration in older stories, I’m guessing, pacific islander in origin, but I can’t say for certain so my thoughts occurred in a vacuum as it were. They’re not flat, they have clear personalities, and the dialogue quality isn’t low by any stretch. The characters follow very human patterns and are well built.

That said, I find myself not wanting to read any more though, because I don’t like any of them. I would take it a step further, and say the majority I actively dislike. I can find no fault in how they are crafted, yet I don’t want to read about any of these people. So I find myself not wanting to continue, despite the interesting world they inhabit.

 

In summary, the author is clearly skilled, and knows what story he is building. He is in no rush, to get to the end, and has created a very intriguing world, filled with an unusual cast of characters.