Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Summary:

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.91shyghsqsl

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

 

Once again I couldn’t wait to start this book after the suspense-filled ending of Siege and Storm (you can read my review of it here). The Darkling finally made his move; the Second Army has been destroyed, the palace taken over, the king, queen, and prince are possibly dead, and Alina is hiding underground without her powers.
I really didn’t know what to expect from this book. At the beginning, it felt like there was no hope for Alina and her friends to be able to defeat the Darkling. He simply has too much power and experience for the ragtag group of rebels to make much difference. To change this, Alina and her friends go on a nearly impossible quest to try to find the firebird. The third of Morozova’s amplifiers could make Alina powerful enough to face the Darkling once and for all but the firebird is a legend they’re not sure even exists. I really enjoyed this quest; the interactions between this group of misfits were fun and it was nice to get away from the politics of the second book. The twist involving the firebird, the third amplifier, and Mal wasn’t much of a plot twist for me. Usually I like little subtle hints in books that make you go “Ohh” when you eventually figure it out but I thought these ones were pretty obvious. I’d guessed this outcome back in the second book but it wasn’t revealed until two-thirds of the way through this one.
Alina is still my favorite character. She’s strong and brave but also very flawed. Despite everything though, she always tries to be a good leader first and foremost. I loved watching her continue to grow throughout this book.
I’m also glad I started to like Mal again. My opinion of him has sort of been a rollercoaster throughout the series but he managed to redeem himself by the end. He hasn’t always been there for Alina the way he should but he stepped up when it mattered and I ended up admiring the person he becomes.
Nikolai is also one of my favorites. He’s still the dashing, witty pirate we met in the last book but behind that he’s intelligent and kind. I was more devastated by what happens to him than by any other event from these books so that should tell you how much I love him.
I don’t have much to say about the Darkling that I haven’t already said in my previous reviews because his part in this book is mostly from a distance. His unpredictability makes him an exceptional villain and I liked the way Bardugo ended things for his character.
Overall this way an amazing conclusion to the series and I highly recommend it to everyone who likes YA and fantasy. As always, thanks for reading and I’d love to know what you think in the comments.

-Antonia

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Summary: Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.91wvknclkul

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

 

After almost a year, I finally got around to finishing this series. I did reread the first book but, since my thoughts on it remain the same, I won’t write another review for it. You can read my review of Shadow and Bone here.

I loved this book. After the whirlwind ending of the first book, it seemed like this one might start slow, but it picked up almost immediately and the whirlwind started again. That’s one of the things I love about this series; it’s so fast paced that I read each book in only a day or two. Even during slower moments there’s so much underlying suspense that you can’t wait to see what happens next.

The setting is amazing. As I said in my review of the first book, I struggle a lot with visualizing settings, especially fantasy settings. Bardugo describes the places and people in her books so well though that I found it easy to see everything. Even with the war, this is a world I think I could live in.

Alina is a character I continue to admire. She’s gone through so much in her life and the events of the last book have left her shaken. Terrible things have happened to her and she’s done terrible things as well. She barely knows who she is anymore and she’s fighting so hard to separate her actions from those of the Darkling. No matter what she does she always keeps fighting to be a good person and I love that about her. I think she really stepped up in this book to try to be a good leader even if she still makes mistakes sometimes.

Mal started to annoy me again in this book. He annoyed me in the beginning, then I loved him by the end of the first book and the beginning of this one, then he started to annoy me again, but I feel like it wasn’t so much his fault. Mal and Alina start this book in a really good place in their relationship. Sure, they’ve got problems, but most of them stem from the war and their terror of the Darkling. Then, suddenly, the relationship’s broken and Mal’s acting like a jerk and Alina won’t just talk to him. It didn’t feel like a natural progression to the relationship. It felt like Bardugo just created problems in the relationship to add more tension to the plot and not because that’s where the relationship was going. It’s the only serious problem I had with this book. I would have understood them having a little trouble because their entire lives are made up of stressful situations and that would wear on any relationship, but the complete 180 seemed forced to me.

I absolutely love Sturmhond. It seemed like every time I turned a page there was a new facet to his personality that made me love him more. Even the negative traits just made him more interesting. I won’t give away too much about him but he’s definitely one of the more unique characters I’ve read about recently.

The Darkling is still an awesome villain even though we don’t see him quite as much in this book. The affects the end of the first book had on him have somehow made him more twisted and it was difficult to figure out what he might do next. Also, (sorry everyone) I still don’t love him.

Overall this was an amazing sequel that I highly recommend to everyone who enjoys YA and fantasy. It has the romance and magic that you expect from this genre with a heavy dose of darkness and what people are capable of under pressure thrown in. I’d love to hear your own thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading!

-Antonia

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
The boy king. The war hero. The prince with a demon curled inside his heart. Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. The people of Ravka don’t know what he endured in their bloody civil war and he intends to keep it that way. Yet with each day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built.
Zoya Nazyalensky has devoted her life to honoring her deadly talents and rebuilding the Grisha army. Despite their magical gifts, Zoya knows the Grisha cannot survive without Ravka as a place of sanctuary- and Ravka cannot survive a weakened king. Zoya will stop at nothing to help Nikolai secure the throne, but she also has new enemies to conquer in the battle to come.
Far north, Nina Zenik wages her own kind of war against the people who would see the Grisha wiped from the earth forever. Burdened by grief and a terrifying power, Nina must face the pain of her past if she has any hope of defeating the dangers that await her on the ice.
Ravka’s king. Ravka’s general. Ravka’s spy. They will journey past the boundaries of science and superstition, of magic and faith, and risk everything to save a broken nation. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried, and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.
King of Scars (Nikolai Duology, #1)Review:
I loved this book from the first page to the last. There are so many mixed reviews out there and I don’t understand how people didn’t like this. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I loved being back in this world. I loved being back with these characters. I have not a single bad word to say about King of Scars.

“You do not use it. You are it. The storm is in your bones.”

I adored getting to spend more time with these characters. Nina was, as always, fierce and fabulous. She was full of passion and a desire to fight for what’s right even if it’s hard. She doesn’t respect authority, probably from all her time in Ketterdam. I loved hearing her inner monologue, her mentions of our favorite Dregs and our dear, dear Mathias. I love Nina and all her sass and I can’t wait to see what happens with her next.

“All fuels burn differently. Some faster, some hotter. Hate is one kind of fuel. But hate that began as devotion? That makes another kind of flame.”

Then there’s the equally fierce but mostly terrifying Zoya. I seriously loved getting chapters from her perspective. This was something I wanted from the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Getting to see Zoya reflect on things from the past was really interesting. Additionally, her point of view opposite that of Nikolai was a perfect balance. She isn’t a pessimist perse, but she’s a voice of reason and keeps things based in reality. I really liked getting to know her better and I’m dying to know what she does next.

“Most of us can hide our greatest hurt and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the  pain isn’t there, that we are  made of scars instead of  wounds.”

Finally, the King of Scars, Nikolai. I adore him just as much as ever. I think his character gets only more interesting and complex the more we learn about him. I liked getting to learn about the darkness within him and his battles with keeping it at bay.

“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world.”

The world of the Grisha is one that draws me right in until the very last page and then never fails to leave me wanting more. I wanted to start the book from the beginning as soon as I was finished. The world building that Bardugo does is intricate and incredible. The Grishaverse is one of my favorite places to be and I love it even more with each visit I make.

“They would build a new world together. But first they had to  burn the old one down.”

Last to talk about is the plot. I hate to say it, but the twist in the final pages of King of Scars was a smidge predictable. I think this was the intention because it was heavily foreshadowed throughout the book. I don’t think this is a bad thing, just something that I thought I’d mention because I’m usually pretty back at predicting things. I thought the writing was compelling and just added that much more to the atmosphere of the story. I think the different perspectives are going to bring some interesting things to the next book and I just cannot wait to see what Leigh will come out with next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday – Villains

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week we talk about our top ten with a different topic provided by Jana. This week’s topic is top ten – Villains (favorite, best, worst, lovable, creepiest, most evil, etc.) I’m going to go with a combination of all the options. This list will include some of my favorite villains, who are the best and the worst at the same time, but also loveable. Some will be the evilesttop t t and maybe a little creepy too. Villains are some of my favorite and a great Spooktober topic!

 

1. The Darkling, Grisha Verse by Leigh Bardugo – Anyone that knows me knows that I miiiight be a little obsessed with this series and the Darkling. He’s such an excellent villain. Attractive and mysterious, he lures you in before pulling you into the dark side. A backstory that gives him a human side. He’s excellently developed and I just love him.
2. Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Creepy, downright evil, this guy is just the worst in all the best ways. He’s a character that I love to hate.
3. Maven Calore, Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard – A loveable villain in the first book. Before we’re blindsided by the fact that he’s actually the villain for this series. I loved him in Red Queen and HATED him the rest of the series. Aveyard made him loveable and personable and I still love him a little even though he’s pure evil.
4. Tea, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – Tea is made out to be the villain in this story but as we read we find out that she’s doing what she really believes in, despite the fact that she knows it will upset pretty much everyone. The minute she finds out she’s a bone witch she’s already given a stigma of being bad.
5. BeiTech, The Illuminae Files by Aime Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – I think this interesting twist of making a corporation the villain of the story is really cool. Though there’s more to this villain I won’t spoil anything. I think this was a well thought out and well-executed villain.
6. Empress Celestine, The Shattered Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima – There’s still much to learn about this particular villain, but so far she’s very intriguing. She’s the worst, but I find myself liking her more as we get deeper into the series.
7. Nova/Insomnia, Renegades by Marissa Meyer – The main character who is a villain, but seems to start to have conflicting feelings about being a villain once she finds herself surrounded by heroes.
8. Martin Chatwin, The Magicians by Lev Grossman – Martin is just the worst. He’s basically psychotic on top of being pure evil.
9. Adelina Amouteru, The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina was one of the first characters that made me realize I might like villains more than I thought.
10. King of Hybern, ACOTAR by Sarah J. Maas – This guy sucked. He was actually the worst and I hated everything about him. Greedy and selfish, not satisfied with what he already has so he has to stir up all kinds of drama.

Who are your favorite, best, worst, most evil villains?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Summary: Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter the lavish world of royalty and intrigue, as she trains with the Grisha – her country’s magical elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of the nation.

Review: Amanda has talked about this book so much that I finally had to get it and I’m glad I did. This was a fun, suspenseful story with some really unique ideas.
First is the setting; Bardugo took initial inspiration from Russian culture then made her own world from there. I thought it was a really unique, well-described world. I could really see the places (that’s something I usually struggle with) and people and it was easy to understand the culture, the politics and even things like the “small sciences” (this world’s version of magic) made sense.
I liked Alina right from the start. She’s tough, smart, and even though she struggles to fit in she never gives up her values to do so. I thought she had some great character development throughout the book and I enjoyed seeing her stop fighting her magical side and finally grow into herself. She makes mistakes but owns up to them and does what she can to fix things afterward. I really admire her character and am excited to see where the story takes her in the next books.
I didn’t love Mal at first. He seemed like the generic guy in all YA who’s been best friends with the protagonist forever and is oblivious to her love for him until it’s too late. And he sort of fits that mold at the beginning but gets away from that when he comes back into the story later on. I ended up loving his character by the end.
The Darkling, I have mixed feelings about. Every other review I read, people talk about how much they love him but, while I appreciate him as I villain, I definitely don’t love him. I think my main problem is how the other characters didn’t know he was evil. I knew before I read the book because it’s all over the internet but it still seemed so obvious to me from the writing that he was not a good character. The fact that everyone continues to follow him, even after his actions at the end of the book, astounds me. Following someone out of fear is one thing but the fact that not a single person other than Alina and Mal was willing to fight back seemed completely unrealistic to me.
Otherwise I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was fast-paced and suspenseful enough to keep my attention and I loved the unique way Bardugo wrote about the magical aspects of the world. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the series goes. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes YA and fantasy. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments and thanks for reading.
-Antonia

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Antonia’s July Book Haul

Amanda, terrible influence that she is, recently introduced me to the site Book Outlet which sells really cheap books. The only problem is it’s a little random what books they have in stock and they’re usually in very limited quantities. Amanda got a gorgeous boxed set that was gone by the time I looked for it that I’m a little disappointed about but I still went a little crazy and bought twelve books. I won’t make this post too long but here’s my beautiful new treasures:

 

I was lucky enough to find two full series (it can be kind of hit or miss with Book Outlet). Both of these I initially looked at because of the pretty covers.

The Everneath series by Brodi Ashton sounded like a cool Hades/ Persephone retelling though looking at reviews now that part is a little misleading. Most people are saying it’s a little more like Orpheus/ Eurydice which I certainly don’t mind.

The Revenants series by Amy Plum caught me with the revenants idea. The summary doesn’t exactly explain everything so I’m really excited to see exactly what kind of supernatural creature they are.

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The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica by James A. Owen is a series I keep going back to since I first saw it years ago but I never got around to actually getting it. Recently I’ve seen a few reviews that convinced me to finally get into them. Unfortunately the website lied to me so I got books 1, 3 and 4. Hopefully I find the second book soon.

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The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn I got because Quinn’s always been an auto-buy author of mine. I love regency romances and Quinn’s are always laugh out loud funny.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones is a story of a girl and a goblin king; a bit like the movie Labyrinth, though I’ve been assured by other reviews that the differences outweigh the similarities. I’m extremely excited for this one even though I couldn’t get the second book.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Amanda’s been talking about this one for so long that I had to get it. It seems like a really cool concept and I just have to know what all the hype is about over the Darkling.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. I thought the good vs. evil and how to decide which one you’ll be was really interesting. Amanda highly recommended this author as well so I have high hopes for this one.

Well that’s all my new babies. Have you read any of these books? Any suggestions for other new books I should get? Leave your thoughts in the comments and thanks for reading.

-Antonia