I know what you all are thinking, The Rat King? That’s so mainstream! Don’t you usually review books that aren’t on the Cleveland Journal’s bestseller list?
It is true, we usually use our book reviews to try and introduce readers to novels or authors they may not have heard about yet- but honestly Demi Kingseller’s The Rat King was so good I just HAD to post a review, full well knowing that a fair amount of our followers have probably already started reading it. I apologize but you all should just comment on how much you love it <3
For those of you not yet familiar with it, The Rat King is a modern day gothic romance set during the War of 1812 and it is SERIOUSLY full of so much drama and passion that I felt like a young lionness in heat the entire time I was reading it- or should I say… rat?? Hah!
The story begins with heroine Kiki LeLille, a young and extremely eligible bachelorette, sobbing hysterically as her father’s merchant ship is struck down by British soldiers right in front of her crystal blue eyes. As she watches the destruction from the shore, she whispers under her breath “by death or damnation, I will avenge my father’s death on this very ocean“. She then flees from her small New England port town, running off into the woods so as to build a better ship that can take down the entire British fleet.
The first couple chapters follow Kiki as she uses her incredible ingenuity to build the perfect ‘ship-of-the-line’ or battleship as we would call it today. The chapters where Kiki is alone are full of beautiful self-reflection, revealing Kingseller’s incredible ability to portray the psychological impact war has on humans. Her words are poetic yet enigmatic, allowing the reader to question his or her own mortality without feeling overwhelmed. Plus I just love all the ship terminology Kingseller throws in- she totally knows her history!
Now the real good stuff happens in chapter 5, when Kiki – using her incredible strength- pushes her full size warship from the forest into the water and begins her tirade against the British. As she is sailing towards the enemy fleet she hears a noise onboard and discovers a stowaway: young, insanely sensual Tom. Tom was a farmhand and town slut from her village, and he reveals to Kiki that he has always wanted to be with her and so followed into her forest and watched her complete her ship. He explains:
“I have always found you to be more than beautiful. Your skin is sweeter than my mama’s cherry pie and your eyes sparkle like an oyster all freshly shucked. I want to slurp them up. And I saw what those damn English did to your pa… let me help you get your revenge and maybe someday you might learn to love me like I love you.”
Moved by his sweet words, Kiki agrees to let him stay- but the two are immediately attacked and boarded by an enemy ship! Enter Paul, the captain of the invading ship (and, because of his crazy good skills, the only sailor actually aboard the ship). He is the most handsome man Kiki has ever seen, and she knows, in that moment, that it is love at first sight. But before she can say anything, Tom and Paul begin to duel. She tries to interfere but only falls into the madness of the fight.
As things calm for a single moment the three of them realize… that they have become tangled together in a mass of ropes and that all their swords have fallen overboard. They struggle to release themselves but it is impossible: they form a real life human Rat King (for those of you not familiar with the term please see here). With no way to cut the rope and the knots being too intense to untie, the three must figure out how to live together on the ship as a single entity- overcoming their differing political beliefs in the process.
I don’t want to give away too much more, but let me tell you it is one of the juiciest books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I literally was salivating at the scene when Kiki realizes she loves both men but has no idea how to choose between them. Here’s an excerpt:
“As our bodies pressed together under the abrasive ropes, I questioned why fate brought me so close to these two men. Behind me Paul sneezed and Tom blessed him. It brought a smile to my face. I knew I loved them both. I knew it with all my heart and soul. But I didn’t want to admit it for fear that I would be forced to choose one.
“Would you like a cup of wine, Kiki?” Paul asked me, his voice deep with a desire I too was feeling. It made my bones shudder. I nodded and accepted a cup from him. He then offered one to Tom, who grunted his husky grunt in a kind response.
What if I don’t have to choose? I wondered to myself as I sipped the Merlot. What if I could have them both? We are… tied for eternity by this binding rope. Sure we were of different backgrounds and political views, and sure we aren’t able to ever actually face each other due to this rope situation- but wasn’t our being stuck together a sign?
As if sensing my thoughts I felt the backs of both men press harder against me. A soft sigh escaped my lips.”
It is SOOO good, I have chills! I hope you all read it if you haven’t started it already! A serious 10 out of 10- and such a good history lesson as well.