Ruin and Rising

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So, I’ve finished reading the Grisha Trilogy.

I’m so sad it’s over.

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If you remember my reviews of the first two books, then you already know that I loved them. This final book didn’t disappoint me in any way.

The first book was a sunny dream of opportunity and happiness compared to this book. It basically tore out my heart and ate it. Terrible things continuously happened with no seeming end in sight.

My heart broke continuously for Ravka, for Alina and Mal, for Nikolai, and even for the Darkling. The beauty of Bardugo’s writing was that she made me care about everyone she introduced me to. I felt for the Stag and the Whip in the previous books, and for the unnamed peasants that are killed to prove a point. It’s a mark of skill that she’s able to make her reader care for even the most reprehensible character: the Darkling.

We learn more of him in this book. It humanizes him to an almost uncomfortable degree. How could a man, even one with such power, come to such an end? Well, you’ll damn well find out.

The reader sees more of Genya, Baghra, and Nikolai, which I was very happy with. Character development was at an all-time high, bringing out new facets of Zoya and Sergei, Tolya and Tamar, and characters we didn’t see much of in the previous books. More is learned of Baghra’s past – and man did I read those parts breathlessly.

The cult of Sankta Alina is rather strongly featured and is interesting – as are Alina’s feelings about it. Ravka is broken, at war with itself while trying to keep outside forces at bay as well. Alina must dig deeper than she thinks herself capable of to try and salvage something of her country and its people.

I found the development of Alina’s character to be very satisfying. In any other character, the self-doubt and constant questioning of motives would be annoying – but here, they simply weren’t. As I mentioned in previous reviews, Alina’s voice seemed so real to me that I couldn’t find her a nuisance, or foolish. In any case, I thought choices were very realistic for someone put in so many impossible situations. Even to the end, she isn’t perfect – never the Sankta that the Apparat wished for. While I always suspected she would come to a tragic end, the way that Bardugo handled it was absolutely flawless.

I find myself at a loss to discuss just why exactly I loved this book so much. I spoke about it to someone when I finished it, and there was a lot of hand flailing and eye-widening to get my point across.

Was the plot well paced? Yes. Was it unpredictable? Yes. Were the characters interesting? Yes. Was the world-building on point? Yes. Was the ending satisfying? Yes.

Plenty of books have those factors and I don’t love them.

Really, it all boils down to this: I felt so much.

I laughed with Alina, and cried with her. I felt her confusion, her conflict, her desire. I felt sympathy for the Darkling and for Baghra, and Mal, and Nikolai. I wished fervently with Baghra (and Alina) that the Darkling could be redeemed. I felt Alina’s stricken pity and understanding as Morozova’s legacy is revealed – and her pain as it was truly understood.

Any books that can make me feel so deeply with and about their characters deserve my love.

Ruin and Rising was, in my opinion, an excellent ending to a fantastic series. While I’m sad to be finished, I’m incredibly pleased that Bardugo has written another series in the same world. Sadly not in Ravka, but you can’t have everything. Even still, her short stories (available on Tor.com) give even more insight into the culture of Ravka for those left wanting more.

I can’t wait to pick up Six of Crows, but I think I should have a cool-down period first.

Have you read the Grisha Trilogy? Did you love it, hate it, or not really care either way? What other books made you feel deeply with and for their characters? Let me know in the comments below!

A Darkly Beating Heart

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Though things have been busy lately, I really have been remiss in posting here consistently. So I have for you today another book review! Yet another NetGalley pick, I chose this one because of its cover and the interesting blurb on the back.

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This book follows Reiko, a Japanese-American teenager, after she’s shipped off to Japan to stay with her cousin’s family in the hopes that it will help her learn to control her emotions.

Reiko is a character who is filled with anger. Its pretty much brought up on every page, which has led some reviewers to give this book a pretty hard knock. They find it annoying and unrealistic (poor little rich girl, sent off to Japan…) and couldn’t sympathise or identify with her character.

I don’t agree.

There are aspects of this book I didn’t like, but Reiko’s anger wasn’t one of them. I was happy to see a character in her situation, that is, struggling to comprehend and express her emotions (or lack of). In reading, it was my understanding that Reiko was dealing with a mental illness – something she struggled to refute as she was medicated and committed to a psychiatric facility. In her mind, she simply wanted revenge – to hurt those around her as she perceived she had been hurt.

Reiko’s anger leads to an interesting supernatural situation as she and her companions visit the historic village of Kuramagi, preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period. After discovering a strange stone in a hidden shrine, Reiko finds herself living the life of Miyu, a young woman living in the Edo period itself. As Reiko struggles to piece together what is happening she bounces between bodies and timelines.

Her actions are often foolish, her impulses upsetting, her attitude reprehensible. But guess what: she’s a teenager.

I really enjoyed the supernatural aspects of this story, and I would have loved if that were expanded upon. As it was though, I didn’t like that the convergence of Miyu and Reiko was given as the cause of Reiko’s anger. It seemed like an easy out for the author and I really expected something more. Living happily ever after without emotional labour, consequence, or therapy seems very unlikely to me.

I also wished to see more of Miyu’s life, and to know what happened to her when Reiko inhabited her body. It seemed a bit laissez-faire for time-travel, though I did like that people in Reiko’s life noticed the strangeness about her later on in the book.

If you’re looking for an okay quick read with a character in a state of emotional upset that also involves time travel, this is the book for you.

Have you given this book a try? Have you read any fantastic books set in Edo-period Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

Children of Icarus

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It’s been quite a while, but I’m back with a review from another NetGalley pick! This pick, though not exactly a horror novel, definitely fits the bill for my spooky October reads. Released in early August, this book didn’t have a very descriptive summary but the title and the cover intrigued me.

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

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Children of Icarus is set in a world in which Icarus is worshipped as an angel who was destroyed by fickle gods. The world-building, though not extremely elaborate was interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading and learning more about it. The book begins at a fast pace and stays that way for about the first third and last third.

The narrator is a very timid girl who I’m fairly certain is suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder. Her best friend Clara is an effervescent sort of girl – the life of the party, center of attention, confident and self-assured.

The blurb on the back of the book was so good at keeping the plot a secret that I’m reluctant to divulge any details of story or characters.

So what I will say is this:

Teenagers can be awful people, and the circumstances in this book often bring out the worse in them. I wish I could say it also brought out the best. The characters were doing what they had to, but I found a lot of them frustrating in various ways – just like I do regular people. It seemed pretty realistic in that aspect.

This book has pretty graphic gore and rather horrifying elements – but they are necessary parts of the story.

The mythos is super interesting and I would have loved to learn more about it – what I did get felt like a trail of breadcrumbs leading to a larger secret that I never got to know. The labyrinth was really interesting, and so were all the creatures contained within it.

So to sum up what I thought of the book:

After the main action a third into the book, it slows to the point that I was slogging a bit. It didn’t feel like there was a big enough pay off at the end to justify it. I feel as if the book could easily have been about 80 pages shorter, and that the reader is kind of forced into reading a sequel that I’m sure will exist to find out the rest of the story.

I liked the concept, and I enjoyed a fair amount of the story but I don’t think I would necessarily recommend it.

If you’re looking for a slow-paced setup novel that I’m sure will lead to an excellent second book, this is the one for you.