Review: The Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo

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Dive into the epic world of international bestselling author Leigh Bardugo with this beautifully illustrated replica of The Lives of Saints, the Istorii Sankt’ya, featuring tales of saints drawn from the beloved novels and beyond. Out of the pages of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, from the hands of Alina Starkov to yours, the Istorii Sankt’ya is a magical keepsake from the Grishaverse.
These tales include miracles and martyrdoms from familiar saints like Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses and Sankt Ilya in Chains, to the strange and obscure stories of Sankta Ursula, Sankta Maradi, and the Starless Saint.
This beautiful collection includes stunning full-color illustrations of each story. 

As you can probably tell, I will happily buy and read anything Leigh Barudgo writes. She is such a talented writer, and I adore her stories. I was so hesitant about going into The Language of Thorns, yet I adored it. So when I realised this was going to be a similar style of short story collection, I knew I wanted to read it. I also happened to only pick up the Grisha trilogy last year, only a few months before this book was released. The Lives of Saints is referenced a lot in the Grisha trilogy, as a kind of bible, a book that is given to children as they grow up and learn about the saints they worship. In a way, this book reminded me a lot of Aesop’s fables, as they are only incredibly short and all have some kind of moral.

I feel like in a way, Bardugo really has a knack for short story/fairytale type writing. She has a beautiful, poetic way of writing that just fits and works so well with these kinds of books. I saw a review that mentioned these are similar to the kind of writings you get with tarot cards, and I can definitely see where they are coming from. These stories are super short, usually between half a page and no more than 5 pages. This book is already very short, only 120 pages, and with the stories themselves being short too, this went by very quickly and I read it within a couple of hours.

You can choose faith or you can choose fear. 

Most, if not all of these stories are quite sad and tragic, because of the nature of the saints having to die to become, well, saints. However, that doesn’t make all of them depressing or harrowing, and I found quite a lot of them poignant, yet uplifting. The illustrations alongside were absolutely beautiful, and this book as a whole is a gorgeous thing to own. I would like to point out that the ugly blue band on the photo is removable! There is gold foiling underneath and a red clothbound cover.

My main disappointment from this book was the fact I know I will forget these stories so quickly, purely because they are so short. It’s an easy, quick read and a great thing to pick up and read one or two from, but very forgettable. With stories this short, there is just no room for character development, and that was the main factor that made me compare this to The Language of Thorns, which has much longer and fewer fairytales, and I can vaguely remember them, even after a few years.

But only one will bring what you long for.

Overall, this was a sweet idea and I love the concept of it. It’s an absolutely beautiful book and the stories are lyrical and beautiful in their own right, but also a little disappointing as they are so short and I felt a bit disconnected from them.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Glass Sword (#2) by Victoria Aveyard

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If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different. Mare’s blood is red – the colour of common folk – but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court wants to control.
Pursued by the vengeful Silver king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join the rebellion. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.
Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

I decided to carry on with this series straight away, and also read Glass Sword in audio format. As I’m not driving much at the moment, I’m only listening to audiobooks when I run, walk and occasionally do venture out in my car. However, I’m still challenging myself to read an audiobook per month, and I’m also trying to gradually make my way through this series! I just about managed to read the whole of Glass Sword in February, although these books keep getting longer, so I only hope I can do the same for King’s Cage in March.

The main thing I took away from this book was that it felt so slow. I’m not sure if it’s just the fact I read it over a longer period of time, but I just don’t feel like much happened. Red Queen was packed with action compared to this one, and Mare’s situation was constantly changing. However, with Glass Sword, I felt like most of the plot could be summarised very quickly and in very few sentences.

No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. 

The slower plot did allow for more character development, however, which I enjoyed and felt was needed after Red Queen. Although I felt like I knew Mare quite well in the first book, I just didn’t know enough about the side characters to invest in them. But in Glass Sword, we definitely get to spend more time around everybody, which I really enjoyed. The only thing I have to point out is boy, does Mare get annoying in places. Especially towards the end, she is so full of self pity. I could always see where she was coming from and sympathised with her, but it did feel repetitive to read about in places.

Even though the plot was a little slow, we did have a few action packed scenes which were amazingly written, especially towards the end. Aveyard also knows how to write a harrowing scene, which left me feeling empty and hollow in places. The only slight disappointment I had was guessing the ending purely because of the name of the third book in the series…

It is worth pointing out that the plot of Glass Sword allows for a lot more exploration of the world, which I found myself really enjoying.

 They become that way, through choice and circumstance.

Overall, there was a lot to like about this book, but it had a little bit of sequel/second book syndrome for me. But hopefully that means King’s Cage is going to pick up once more and be more on par with Red Queen! I may also start reading these partly in physical format to see if that makes me feel any differently about the last two in the series.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Hero at the Fall (#3) by Alwyn Hamilton

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Once, in the desert country of Miraji, there was a Sultan without an heir.
The heir had been killed by his own brother, the treacherous Rebel Prince, who was consumed by jealousy and sought the throne for himself.
Or so it was said by some. There were others who said that the Rebel Prince was not a traitor but a hero…
In the final battle for the throne, Amani must fight for everything she believes in, but with the rebellion in pieces, and the Sultan’s armies advancing across the desert plains, who will lead, who will triumph, who will live and who will die?

My first thought after finishing this series is it is so underrated. I found them on a table in a bookshop years ago, and have heard little about them since, especially online. I enjoyed this more than some of the biggest YA fantasy/dystopian series and they should definitely have more hype! First of all, this series has been so unique and I loved the fact it was set in a desert. The worldbuilding in this series has been excellent and I could picture the desert and palace so clearly.

One of my favourite parts of this series was the friendship group, which had a real found family aspect to it. Although in this particular book I felt there was a little lack of character development and some of the side characters were a little interchangeable, the main few I really liked. Their banter and discussions felt natural and even made me chuckle in places. The end of the book was absolute roller-coaster and I had tears in my eyes in places. I really liked Amani and Jin’s relationship and the connection they had was beautifully written.

But even if the desert forgot a thousand and one of our stories, it was enough that they would tell of us at all. 

This last book was definitely the most action filled, which made it a very quick read. But unfortunately for me, I didn’t like it quite as much as the second, which I think was my favourite. I tend to prefer character focused books that I can feel a real connection to, rather than action packed books that leave me feeling a little disconnected from the characters. That’s how I felt about this book, just a little too disconnected from the characters to enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. The last part of this book almost made up for the parts I didn’t find quite so clear, but not quite. The ending reminded me of the end of Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses when you just don’t know what is going to happen to the characters, or whether they will be okay.

Amani was an amazing, strong, brave female main character throughout this whole series, and she was one of my favourite things about it. She was such a great role model and I love how Jin complemented her but it was always clear she could be just fine on her own. It is subtle and in the background of the books until they are together and they burn so brightly, I loved seeing them together.

That long after our deaths, men and women sitting around a fire would hear that once, long ago, before we were all just stories, we lived.

Overall, I really liked this series. It was such a unique twist on YA fantasy and I haven’t read anything else quite like it. Also, it’s worth mentioning the covers are drop dead gorgeous!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Red Queen (#1) by Victoria Aveyard

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This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The poverty-stricken Reds are commoners, living in the shadow of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from the Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Then Mare finds herself working at the Silver palace, in the midst of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control. 

I hardly ever re-read books, but this one I knew I needed to. I read this book the first time when only this one was out, and it’s taken me a while to gather copies of the rest of the series. Now I finally own all of them, I decided to re-read the first one almost five years later. I read this (mostly) on audiobook as a test of whether I could run and listen to an audiobook at the same time, and I really enjoyed re-reading it!

I interestingly feel similarly to how I did the first time I read this book, and I quickly found I couldn’t remember much about it at all. I’m glad I couldn’t, because it gave me such an element of surprise all over again. Plot twists come out of nowhere in this book and I was constantly being surprised by them. Red Queen is very intense and has an interesting premise of a world split between ‘Reds’ (the poorer people, who do not have powers) and ‘Silvers’ (the people who hold the power, rich, have special powers). Mare Barrow, our protagonist is, somehow, a Red with special powers.

I see a world on the edge of a blade. 

I really liked the concept of Red Queen. It is an elaborate game of power, of courts, of royalty. Of those with power and those forced to be a slave to them. It is a story of betrayal and family. It is intense without being daunting or overwhelming, a fantasy that is relatable and easy to read. The premise provides opportunities for some interesting and deep discussions of class divide, and I really liked how they were interwoven throughout this story. The writing was still beautiful the second time around, and I found myself able to picture the world clearly. The world-building was detailed, and allowed me to be drawn into the story and life in the palace.

As with the first time I read this book, the characters let it down for me. I find Mare makes for a good protagonist and I enjoyed reading her story and felt sympathetic towards her and her family. But again, I struggled to understand the love triangle, as the characters just felt kind of distant. I just didn’t feel close to either of the Prince’s, and I found myself rolling my eyes a little at the mention of Mare being attracted towards either of them.

Without balance, it will fall.

I’m looking forward to finally carrying on with this series and hopefully finding out more about the characters introduced to us in Red Queen. I can’t wait to see where this goes, and I feel like this story could just be the beginning…

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

It has taken me way too long (almost two years) to finally pick up this book. I was so daunted by it because it is such a large book, but I challenged myself to read it in a week between my semesters at uni and I managed to read it in 6 days! All I knew about this book was that 1) it has an LGBT relationship, 2) it has dragons and 3) it is one of Alex’s favourite books. And if that wasn’t enough to entice me, I don’t know what else would.

This is an epic fantasy. A complex and intricate world that has so much to reveal. The biggest disappointment for me (and the part I was most worried about when I went into the story) was that I felt a bit lost. I struggled to connect to the characters because there was just so many, and it took me a while to get into it. I found myself latching onto a particular character (in my case, Ead), because I really enjoyed her storyline. Although I felt a bit lost in the other parts of the story, I’m glad I did focus on her because I felt much more connected to her character. I was so happy when the book became more and more focused on her particular story.

Some truths are safest buried. Some castles best kept in the sky.

The romance in this book was one of my favourite aspects of it. There is a slow burning, female/female romance which felt honest, raw and complicated. I appreciated their relationship so much, and the way they tackled life together reminded me of my own relationship with my boyfriend. They were honest with themselves and each other and I adored that about them. I also really enjoyed how this book explores gender issues and talks about women in power. It was so refreshing and some of the quotes were so good, I had to tab them!

I really liked most of the characters, and especially the mythical beings and animals. The way they were incorporated into the story felt so different and refreshing, I adored them. For some reason I expected the dragons to appear part way through the book, but I loved how they were in the story basically from the very start.

There’s promise in tales that are yet to be spoken.

I did have mixed feelings about this book, but I feel like it could have easily been a 5 star read for me if I understood a little more about the characters, the world, the politics and the royal families. There is just so much to take in and that this book has to give, and I feel like I’d love to reread it in the future, whether that be in a physical or audio version. I feel like it’s something I will enjoy more if I reread it, because this book will have something new to give with every read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Hush Hush (#1) by Becca Fitzpatrick

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Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

This is the kind of book I would have probably loved as a young teen, but I couldn’t help but pick out a lot of problems with now. I read this mostly on audibook (I actually only read 2 chapters of the physical version in the end), and I did enjoy it. I feel like if I’d have read the physical version I would have found it very addictive and hard to put down, and I think I’ll find out as the last two books in the series don’t have audiobooks on the app I use. The only problem I found with the audiobook was a bad Irish accent….

I found the characters not so great, although for the most part Nora was okay, thankfully. I struggle to enjoy books when I don’t like the main character, but Nora was just a troubled, confused teenager. She did annoy me a few times with her desperation for a character who was quite obviously bad news, but I managed to push it away for the most part.

All this time I’ve hated myself for it. 

The plot was really interesting and I definitely wanted to keep reading and find out what was happening. I did guess who the killer was, but it still retained a lot of mystery. Patch was an up and down character, I definitely grew to like him more as the book went on, but there was a lot of problematic scenes that made me cringe with discomfort for Nora.

I also found a lot of problems with gender and sexuality in this book. It just isn’t diverse at all. And I know this book was written in an era which was less diverse, but after reading some amazingly diverse books recently I did struggle with it. The writing was simple but addictive – definitely what I expected from this book and I wasn’t disappointed. It was kind of cringey and cheesy, and I definitely wanted to roll my eyes at some points. But if this is the kind of thing you enjoy, you’ll love it!

I thought I’d given it up for nothing. But if I hadn’t fallen, I wouldn’t have met you.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, go for it! It’s one of those books that is quite cheesy but really easy to like.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

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France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

This is the kind of book that grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go. It draws you into the pages until you know nothing else, and you are left gasping for air. It shakes you up and makes you never, ever want it to end. This book was astounding. Beautiful. Clever. Brilliant. And I will never have enough words to describe how much I adored it. After all, the hardest reviews to write are the ones for the books that you fall in love with.

This book follows Addie LaRue, a girl who is cursed to be forgotten. Until one day, after nearly 300 years of wandering the earth without leaving a mark, she meets a boy who remembers. Told over those 300 long years of Addie’s life, we flit between everywhere she has been, and modern day New York, where she meets Henry, who remembers her name.

Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. 

This is a romance. A mystery. A historical fantasy. It is so many things, but in every way it is utterly encapsulating and absolutely breathtaking. I fell for Addie’s story and the way she wandered the earth, learning more about herself with every situation she found her in. She was broken by the curse she was under, but also stronger and a lover of life because of it. Her story was unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I couldn’t resist the urge to know what happened to her.

It is about the world and wandering it, friendship and love, life and death, loss and hope. It is a beautiful narrative of a girl who longs to be remembered, and a boy who longs to forget. The prose is written in such a way that I wanted to savour it as it if it was the last chocolate on earth, and I also wanted to keep on turning the pages. It was truly enthralling, and so intense.

After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?

I wish I could tell you how much this book made me feel. Intrigued. Sorrowful. Overjoyed. Infatuated. Heartbroken. Hopeful. I sobbed more than I ever have at a book before, but was still left with a warmth in my heart that I don’t think will ever leave. I have always struggled to pick out a favourite book, but V.E. Schwab, you may have just gone and done it. Thank you so much for such a breath of fresh air, that I just want to push into the arms of every reader I come across, and tell them to read it, savour it, let it take you on this wild, beautiful ride.

I will say your name, Addie LaRue. I will carry you with me and I will not forget.

I remember you.

★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Blog Tour + Review: A Clock of Stars by Francesca Gibbons

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Imogen should be nice to her little sister Marie. She should be nice to her mum’s boyfriend too. And she certainly shouldn’t follow a strange silver moth through a door in a tree.
But then… who does what they’re told?
Followed by Marie, Imogen finds herself falling into a magical kingdom where the two sisters are swept up in a thrilling race against time – helped by the spoiled prince of the kingdom, a dancing bear, a very grumpy hunter… and even the stars above them.

Thank you to Kaleidoscopic Tours and Harper Collins for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book was so much fun! I don’t read much middle grade, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this. It follows the story of two sisters who find a hidden door to a world. It had such Narnia vibes which I loved and felt perfect for Autumn.

The characters were great and I thought they were very well written. We had so many people to be introduced to: the sisters, Miro and the rest of the royal family in this mystical land, and their enemies, the skret. The skret felt like such cool monsters but I adored how they ended up being so much more – having their own story which was interwoven with the land and the royal family themselves. The two sisters were such lovely characters and it felt so bittersweet to leave them at the end of the story.

Some of my favourite parts of the book were the parts travelling across the land, which sounded beautiful and fantastical. I loved the tree-houses and the castle itself, with the rich descriptions working well alongside Riddell’s beautiful drawings. I loved the adventure aspect, with the plot being so fun and entertaining as they discovered more and more about the world.

My only slight complaint is this book seemed quite long (especially for a middle grade!) and the plot did lose me slightly at times. Other than that, this is definitely worth a read and I can see a younger me loving it!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.
On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.
Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.
They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate..

I didn’t plan to read this book just before Halloween, but I’m really glad I did. It is mystical and haunting and just perfect for Autumn. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up really enjoying it. I read The Girl of Ink and Stars a couple of years ago and really liked the writing, so I was glad to delve back into her worlds.

The writing really didn’t let me down. It was so atmospheric and beautiful, and made the book fly by. This book is fairly short, clocking in at just over 300 pages, and I loved that about it. I got into it super quickly, and read 50-100 pages for a couple of days and finished it so quickly!

I thought my silence, my stillness, was a fine way to be. 

The characters really carried this story for me. I loved the relationship between the two main characters, who are sisters. I also really enjoyed reading about the romances, which included a lovely, positive f/f relationship that I adored reading about so much.

I was a little hesitant going into this book after my friend Courtney read it and was disappointed by the ending. I can really sympathise with why she didn’t like how it ended, and maybe I would have felt differently without the knowledge that I might not enjoy it. However, I didn’t mind the ending. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, but I find I appreciate a hopeful one more. And although the ending felt a little rush in the decisions of the main characters, I still enjoyed it quite a lot.

But now I realised it made me as bad as those men who took the side of a monster, who watched a locked door as children starved to death inside.

I wasn’t aware this book was a retelling about Dracula’s brides until I read the acknowledgements at the end, but knowing only added more. I can really visualise how the story has evolved into the beautiful and haunting narrative that is The Deathless Girls.


★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Ruin and Rising (#3) by Leigh Bardugo

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The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
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.

I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t the epic conclusion to the series I’d hoped for. Instead, I actually found the most problems with this one than probably any in the series. For such an epic build up, I just found it fell a little flat.

I think a lot of this was due to the fact I missed having a new character. We were obviously introduced to everybody in Shadow and Bone, and then had the introduction of Nikolai in Siege and Storm, who I loved as a character. Not having somebody new to explore made me slightly….bored? I also missed having Nikolai around for most of the story, which I won’t say any more about as I don’t want to spoil anything.

Na razrusha’ya. I am not ruined. 

I also found myself not being quite so compelled by the story until the last 100 pages or so, although I still finished it in just a couple of days! I really enjoyed the characters, including the ‘found family’ element which reminded me of the court in Throne of Glass. Some of the scenes of the group travelling really reminded me of the scenes and conversations in the later Throne of Glass books, and I loved it. We also had a chance to find out more of the backstory of some of the main characters, especially the Darkling himself.

I’ve heard a lot of people express disappointment about the ending of this book, but I actually really enjoyed it and felt satisfied by the end. Bardugo broke my heart into a million pieces and pieced it back together. I loved it, it made me so emotional and left me with tears in my eyes in places.

E’ya razrushost. I am ruination.

It’s mainly due to the ending of this book that I couldn’t bring myself to decrease my rating from 4 stars to lower. I did have a lot of problems and disappointments, but I still really enjoyed it and there is no question that Bardugo’s writing really develops throughout this series and this book in particular.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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