Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

GoodReads Summary:
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Review:
What to say about Ninth House? I absolutely loved this. I don’t understand why so many people didn’t like it. Many said the beginning was slow and boring, but II completely disagree. I was invested in the story almost immediately. I think for me, I can relate to Alex because of our shared history of substance abuse. So, that makes me connect with her in a way many people probably don’t.
I absolutely adored the setting and atmosphere of Ninth House. I grew up a few hours away from Connecticut, I could totally feel the biting winter cold and the old, historical feel of the town. I thought it was so well done, and obviously done by someone who had lived in the area. I know Bardugo went to Yale and clearly spent tons of time researching.
I really enjoyed the societies. They were dark and magical and infuriating. I think this story is told by Alex, an outsider, gave the whole story an interesting perspective. She wasn’t just another rich kid being a Yale legacy. She was working for her place there. I also thought it was great that Alex worried about her classes, her non-society friends, and things outside of her ‘job’ there.
Darlington, my dear Darlington. I spent most of the book wondering what happened to him and then being pissed when I found out. I liked that we got to see him teaching Alex all of the Lethe ways. I liked that we got his backstory too and learn that he’s more than the persona he presents to the world.
Let’s talk about the darker elements of this book. There have been many conversations about the content warnings provided. I don’t really find myself having too much trouble reading about horrible things very often, and this was no different. I actually got to a certain part of the book and remembered one of the content warnings. Then I thought about all the other ones I knew of and actually thought to myself “oh, I already passed the kid eating shit and didn’t really even think about.” I know this is not the case with everyone, but I thought all of the darker aspects of the story were well written, well thought out, and were not included just for any sort of shock value. I though Bardugo handled them all very well.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I didn’t know it was going to be a series, so I am HYPED for the next book. I cannot wait to see where these characters are going to go. I had so much fun reading this one and I highly recommend it for those that enjoy darker books.

Quotes:

“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”

“All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down”

“Peace was like any high. It couldn’t last. It was an illusion, something that could be interrupted in a moment and lost forever.”

“That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible. It gave back the world all lonely children longed for.”

“Alex didn’t have money. But she did have power. She’d been afraid of it, afraid of staring directly at that blood-soaked night. Afraid she’d feel regret or shame, of saying goodbye to Hellie all over again. But when she’d finally looked? Let herself remember? Well, maybe there was something broken and shriveled in her, because she felt only a deep calm in knowing what she was capable of.”

 

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the cities dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Review:
I honestly don’t know how I’m supposed to express my love for this book with real words. Aside from writing ‘I loved this’ over and over again I’m not sure what you people want from me. I’m just kidding friends. First off, I still love the setting here. In Ketterdam it’s a whole different world from the familiar Ravka from the Shadow and Bone trilogy. I love the dirty and grittiness of the Barrel. I love the gang aspect with these characters. They’re supposed to be criminals, low lives, and good for nothing. But they show us that they’re so much more over and over again. These friends prove that they’re more than their assumptions time and time again. This friend group is probably the most appealing thing in the story. While the plot is interesting, the characters are really what I’m here for. From the irreparably damaged Kaz to the ever-noble Matthias. They all are just the perfect combination of sass and anger and unresolved issues. They each bring something unique but essential to the friend squad and I loved every second of it.

“What you want and what the world needs are not always in accord, Kaz. Praying and wishing are not the same thing.”

Nina is probably my favorite and I’m excited/nervous for her story to continue in King of Scars because people have said they just didn’t care about Nina’s chapters. I feel like Nina really got the worst out of everyone. Leigh Bardugo really did her dirty and she didn’t deserve it. Despite this, she made me laugh. Her love of cake and waffles and sweets was so relatable and just put a smile on my face.

“She was the Queen of Mourning, and in its depths, she would never drown.”

Matthias made laugh with his attempts at restraint and Nina always messing with him. I really admired his strength for trying to fight everything he’s been taught his whole life and everything he’s ever known. Trying to come to terms with the fact that he and his home country are wrong, he really shows growth and I loved it.

“You aren’t a flower, you’re every blossom in the wood blooming at once. You are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede. You are overwhelming.”

Jesper also had some great growth in this book and I’d love to see where he is now. I think he really comes to terms with who he is and the abilities and flaws that he has. I think he developed wonderfully after making some mistakes in the first book, he does anything and everything he can to make amends for the things he did. Despite him trying to make amends, he was full of jokes and sarcasm and sass and I loved it.

Mati en sheva yelu. This action will have no echo. It means we won’t repeat the same mistakes, that we won’t continue to do harm.”

Then there’s little Wylan. He’s probably not little, but the way that everyone talks to him I picture him as a small boy. He starts off as our designated soft boy but develops into so much more. I think Wylan is really just trying to prove himself and where his loyalties are. I think Wylan’s ending was the best. He really is the only one that got everything he wanted but I think he deserved it.

“You’re weak because you’re afraid of people seeing your weakness. You’re letting shame decide who you are.”

Our Wraith is next, the beloved Inej. She has a lot of inner conflict in these books and I really get it. It makes her relatable. She does what she needs to survive, even if those things don’t always sit well with her, even if those things don’t always align with her morals. I think she is the most interesting character because of this.

We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.”

Finally, our fearless leader, Kaz Brekker. The criminal mastermind bent on revenge. He’s incredibly smart and clever. He always seems to have a solution for everything and sometimes those solutions are so crazy they just might work. I found myself reading and thinking to myself, ‘Holy shit that was lucky’ and then ten pages later finding out that it was Kaz that planned it all along. There were parts that I thought there was no way Kaz has planned these things that everything is falling apart, but then it all works out exactly how Kaz wanted it to and it blows me away.

“I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

Overall this book was incredible. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I loved seeing these characters working together and growing together. They have the most fun and craziest adventures. They just have an incredible dynamic and I loved it. I loved seeing the characters we met in the Shadow and Bone books. I loved seeing the world just come together. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending. It seemed a little lacking. There just wasn’t anything solid for any of the characters. It was so open-ended and I get that the books in this world aren’t over, so it makes sense. But it was just not a satisfying ending. Other than that, I loved everything about this book, even the heartbreak. I have to go read King of Scars now, bye.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Summary:
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Review:
I’ve been rereading so many of the books I’ve read and loved over the years, but don’t remember every detail about. Six of Crows is one of those. I haven’t read this duology since the second book came out in 2016. I thought now would be the perfect time to reread these books before I got my hands on King of Scars at the end of January.

“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every  monstrous thing.”

Rereading this book was exciting and wonderful. I loved being back inside this world with these characters. Ketterdam is one of my favorite fictional worlds. It’s. complex and dark, filled with corners you really should stay out of and all the scheming you could imagine. I love the world of Grisha. It has the ability to suck me in, chew me up, and spit me out at the final page. I was so engrossed in this story that I didn’t want to put it down. I spent several nights staying up later than I should to read more pages.

“The water hears and understands. The ice does not forgive.”

The characters were equally as good as the setting. They were complex and dark, each with their own story to tell. Kaz Brekker, our fearless leader, has such an interesting backstory. Dark and gritty, he does whatever he needs in order to reach his goals. Getting to learn his backstory definitely humanized him as the story went on. He wants everyone to think he’s the big bad, but he cares more than he’s willing to admit.

“Better terrible truths than kind lies.”

Inej, the Wraith, is another character that will do what she needs to as long as it brings her closer to her goals. Sold into slavery, then into the Dregs, she does what she must to survive while trying to keep her conscious clear, not always successfully. She sees the best in her friends even when they don’t deserve it. Nina is probably my favorite though. She’s sassy and fierce, loyal and caring. She doesn’t take anyone’s shit and she stands up for what she believes in. I’m so excited to see where Nina’s story goes in King of Scars.
Jesper was the comedic relief of the group. He turns everything into a joke because he can’t stop and take time to think about what his life has become. He is impulsive and it’s not always a good thing. Then there’s Wylan, sweet and soft Wylan. A merchant’s son, he joins the Dregs to escape a life that seems better than it is. He’s constantly trying to prove himself and that he is worthy to be a part of the team. I think he’s my favorite. I love a good soft boy. Then there’s Matthias, the opposite of a soft boy. He’s full of nothing but conflict and a need for revenge. I think Matthias has the best character arc and development. He’s fighting to decide between the girl he’s grown to care for and the things he’s always known and believed in.

“Greed may do your bidding, but death serves no man.”

These characters all together create the most interesting and conflicted squad, which makes for interesting times as they sail to another country to kidnap someone, a mission that is very likely to fail. All of the different personalities combining in the adventures they go on is guaranteed to be a good time full of laughs, danger, and maybe even a little death. This is still one of my favorite books. It’s just so good. Leigh Bardugo will forever be my Queen. If you haven’t read this book yet, what are you waiting for?

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.