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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BookTube: Beth Finally Reads the Grisha Trilogy: A Summary

Hi loves! Today I thought I’d do a bit of a different video and film a little discussion. I’ve been finding my reaction to the Grisha trilogy interesting, having read all of Leigh’s other books first, so thought I’d have a bit of a chat about how I found the series!

-Beth

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Siege and Storm (#2) by Leigh Bardugo

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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.
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.

I didn’t quite read this one as quickly as Shadow and Bone, but I very easily could have. The only reason I didn’t was in fact I took a break to do other things I needed to focus my time on. But even so, I did still read it in practically three sittings – one time reading around 115 pages, the next time reading around 200 pages, and then finishing off with a short 65 sprint.

This book didn’t capture my attention quite as much as the first one, I’ll admit. But I still loved a lot about it, including Nikolai. Forget the Darkling, Nikolai was such a good character. I loved his dialogue and banter and complicated nature. I wish the love triangle (or square, or whatever-the-hell it is by now) just wasn’t a thing, as I really think having Nikolai as just a super cool friend would have appealed more to me in all honesty. But having him in this book was awesome, and I loved his character.

The less you say,

Alina really progresses in this book and becomes a character with a much deeper, darker nature, constantly battling her own demons. I felt like I was riding such a rollercoaster with her, and wow that ending left me wanting more. Sometimes the plot of this series can come across as predictable, but I was so lulled into the story that the last 20 or so pages really shook me.

The tone of this series is brilliant. I love the world Bardugo has created, especially with the dark, steampunk undertones constantly shining through. Considering a third of this book is set on a ship with pirates (sorry, privateers), it’s a shock how much I loved it, as I usually drift away from anything set on the ocean for some reason. However, the characters were just so intensely well written that I was so drawn in!

the more weight your words will carry.

Overall, this book felt much the same as the first for me. I loved the plot and the story, but the romance let me down. The characters are very well written and have depth, which only expands in the second one. I’m very excited to see where the last one takes me!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Shadow and Bone (#1) by Leigh Bardugo

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Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two. 

Having read Leigh’s books in the complete wrong order, I had no idea how this series would feel for me. I began with Six of Crows, then Crooked Kingdom, The Language of Thorns and have even read King of Scars, which kind of ruins some of this series for me. I still wanted to give it a go though, and especially considering I don’t remember much of King of Scars at all, I don’t feel like it spoiled too much for me.

Having read her later writing first, I definitely noticed a difference in this book being earlier. Bardugo’s writing develops so much throughout her releases, but in a lot of ways it actually made Shadow and Bone really enjoyable for me. The writing is simpler, less complicated and felt like a good place to start in the universe, for Bardugo herself and for the reader. In a lot of ways I really do wish I’d started with this series, as I remember how long it took me to get into Six of Crows the first time around.

“The problem with wanting,” he whispered,

Although a lot of the plot was predictable in places, I really liked learning Alina’s story. She made a great protagonist to introduce this world with, as she is learning about the magic system herself and starting from scratch. Talking of, I really liked how the magic system was put together and portrayed. The Grisha themselves are really cool and unique magic wielders, and I love reading about their world.

Although Alina made a great female protagonist, I didn’t enjoy the love triangle so much. Love triangles always put me off a little, and this one was no different. I did really like the Darkling, however, and I thought he was a very cleverly written ploy.

I can’t write this review without telling you guys how I read the entire thing in a day. Not 24-hours. I literally read it from morning to evening. I read 170 pages in one go. Although it didn’t quite make this book 5 stars for me, I cannot hide how purely enthralling and page-turning a book has to be for me to pick it up like that and simply not want to put it down. I was captivated.

his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, “is that it makes us weak.”

Overall, this book let me down in places and the plot could be predictable, but I really loved it and wish I’d picked it up sooner. What a story. It grabs you by the shoulders and doesn’t let go. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Kingdom of Ash (#7) by Sarah J Maas

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Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to assassin to queen reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world…
She has risked everything to save her people – but at a tremendous cost. Locked in an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will to endure the months of torture inflicted upon her. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unravelling with each passing day…
With Aelin imprisoned, Aedion and Lysandra are the last line of defence keeping Terrasen from utter destruction. But even the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save the kingdom.
Scattered throughout the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian must forge their own paths to meet their destinies. And across the sea Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen – before she is lost to him. Some bonds will deepen and others be severed forever, but as the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight if they are to find salvation – and a better world.

Wow. Leaving this series behind after 8 books following this glorious cast of characters is going to be hard and leave a hole in my heart for a while. I can’t imagine not reading about them anymore!

This book has daunted me since it came out. In fact, I think it trumps Queen of Air and Darkness in being the longest book I’ve ever read. But it’s saying something that I really didn’t feel the length of this book at all, I never got bored and I left the book feeling like everything I needed answering had been answered. The pacing was just perfect for me. Reading this series with Alex has really helped me keep on top of reading them, but even when I fell behind in our schedule towards the end after a busy few days, I had no problem reading around 200 pages in a day to catch up with the schedule!

‘There are no gods left to watch, I’m afraid. And there are no gods left to help you now, Aelin Galathynius.’

I love the cast of characters we have followed over this series, and it was so satisfying to see them all reach different ends to their stories. Even though in some of the books I was more fixated on some characters than others, by the time we got to Kingdom of Ash, I just wanted to know about all of them. I never got bored or wanted to skip certain characters chapters, I wanted to know it all. I fell in love with all of them for their own reasons, and I truly felt like I was part of Aelin’s court myself and I never wanted to leave.

Despite this book being so long, I could definitely read more about these lovely characters if it was available to me, and I would totally lap up a novella like A Court of Frost and Starlight but for these characters. The only slight complaint I have that tainted the story for me was that everything felt a little too perfect. I just wish one or more of the characters could have been happy and badass on their own, and didn’t need to get married or have children in their future to be happy. Not that I didn’t ship everyone of course, it just made me almost roll my eyes sometimes!

Aelin smiled, and Goldryn burned brighter. ‘I am a god.’

I always said A Court of Thorns and Roses was my Sarah J Maas series, but you know, this one is up there. I can’t believe how much I adored this series and these characters and this world, and the battle scenes were immense. Thank you for another wonderful fantasy series, Sarah J Maas. Now I can’t wait for the next one!

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Empire of Storms (#5) by Sarah J Maas

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The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.
With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Wow, Throne of Glass just seems to step up and up with each book. I’ve been enjoying the emotional rollercoaster, but this one was on a whole other level. Alien and her court are back together, travelling across the beautiful land. It was so cool to see more of the land and other wider characters in this book.

Talking of, this seemed to be the one where more of the storylines begin to intertwine and I loved it. Although I appreciated Manon’s strength and female power, her story bored me a little up until the past book or two. I slowly became more and more invested in it for it to lead to the events of Empire of Storms, and it was worth it. This book made me appreciate all of the storylines that came before, if only to see the group together and love the Court together and as individuals.

I love you. There is no limit to what I can give to you, no time I need.

This book also felt more readable than the previous – it felt like the pacing had improved. I enjoyed the slow scenes between the characters, which rounded and built them perfectly. And I enjoyed the fast paced action scenes they led up to, especially the incredible ending.

I missed a certain character and I am looking forward to Tower of Dawn for that reason. But the edition of new characters and certain storylines really improved the story. Instead of feeling like I have before, which is wanting to get through certain chapters to reach others, I was really invested in all of the characters for a change!

Even when this world is forgotten whisper of dust between the stars, I will love you.

Overall, Empire of Storms was really enjoyable but still doesn’t quite match up to how much I loved Crown of Midnight – I’m at the point of not knowing whether it can be beaten, but I’m looking forward to finding out!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. When Lo-Melkhiin – a formidable king – arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice – leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king …if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it drew me in like I didn’t expect. This book is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, which I have never read but know the rough story of, so I had some idea of what to expect. Having the simple backing plot of the fairytale drew me in and kept me interested, and but the magic that sparked in the pages of this book made it stand out.

The narrator, who remains unnamed, I really loved reading about. She has a strength and fire and I really appreciated her as a female narrator. Even though this book is naturally sexist and shows women to be ‘lower’ than men, she has an amazing voice.

“I do fear him,” I said, which was close to the truth. “I fear him as I fear the desert sun and poisonous snakes.

The plot was slow burning, but it felt insignificant as most of the plot had already been laid out with it being a retelling. The pace picked up towards the end and offered a big payoff for reading the slower parts. I really enjoyed the slower parts too though, and the detailing of the palace where the narrator spends most of the story shined through. I appreciated the minute detailing of the surroundings, as it made the story enchanting and encompassing.

The King was a spiteful character, but his development throughout the story was so interesting and kept me on my toes as I never knew how to feel about him. The rest of the cast of characters were also brilliant, and the narrators sister I just adored. One conversation between her and her sister really stood out.

They are all part of the life I live. But the sun gives light, and snakes will feed a caravan if they are caught and cooked.”

Overall, this was quite an enchanting story that drew me in. The writing and plot were simple, which unfortunately led me to rate this lower than I would have liked. I also really enjoyed the magical elements, but they could be confusing in their descriptions, which is another factor that went towards a lower rating. Aside from this, I really enjoyed the book and it was an interesting twist on a classic story.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Queen of Shadows (#4) by Sarah J Maas

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Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain… 

This book was everything Heir of Fire was missing. I wanted everybody all together again, to be back in Rifthold and for Celena to be around Dorian and Chaol. I was so torn by Heir of Fire and how Celena was in a completely different part of the world. Although it was interesting to read about her, err, relationship with Rowan, I missed having everybody together.

The female strength that shines through in this book blows me away. I love having such strong and beautiful female heroines, and these books are full of them. Not only do we have Celena, but I really grew to like Manon in this book. Her story intrigued me in Heir of Fire, but I liked it a lot in this one.

She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers.

Celena has really matured throughout these books, and I love the cast of characters. My heart ached for Dorian, and seeing how he developed throughout this story was so intense. I really missed some interactions with Chaol and I feel like he wasn’t a major part of the story at all which was disappointing. I really liked Rowan and Celena’s relationship, but something about it just didn’t sit quite right with me. I’m not sure how distant their relationship is, but I swear they are cousins! I kept remembering this whenever I read…certain scenes, and I just couldn’t shake the thought from my mind.

The writing was beautiful as usual, and just gets better with each book. The action scenes are amazing, and I was so absorbed into the story, reading my daily pages first thing for the final few days because I just wanted to know what happened. Magic is written with such beautiful language, and I adored it. The writing made for an absolutely wild ride, and I was shook at the end of some chapters, even gasping out loud.

As usual, I also loved the settings so much. Seeing more of the world always intrigues me, and the last twenty pages or so were probably my favourites of the whole book simply to be able to see a little more of the world.

She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.

Overall, this was probably my second favourite Throne of Glass book so far. It didn’t quite beat Crown of Midnight, but I will be very happy if this series continues to get better – I can really see it happening!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Crow Rider (#1) by Kalyn Josephson

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Princess Thia, her allies, and her crow, Res, are planning a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel and Illucia once and for all. Thia must convince the neighboring kingdoms to come to her aid, and Res’s show of strength is the only thing that can help her.
But so many obstacles stand in her way. Res excels at his training, until he loses control of his magic, harming Thia in the process. She is also pursued by Prince Ericen, heir to the Illucian throne and the one person she can’t trust but can’t seem to stay away from.
As the rebel group prepares for war, Res’s magic grows more unstable. Thia has to decide if she can rely on herself and their bond enough to lead the rebellion and become the crow rider she was meant to be
.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I read the first book in this duology last year before it’s release, and I knew since then I wanted to pick up the next one. I adored the first book and found it such a lovely fantasy with a twist. The Crow Rider was no different, and I’m so glad I had a chance to read it!

It was so lovely to delve back into this beautiful world. Josephson does a brilliant job of describing the world and cities, honestly some of the passages describing the markets and cities took my breath away. I was immediately enveloped once again into this world of castles and beauty.

The writing was beautiful and I kept wanting to go back for more. Whenever I picked up this book I didn’t want to stop, there was a weird kind of comfort I remember from reading The Storm Crow that only comes with knowing how much you are going to enjoy a book. Another thing that came back was the openness when Josephson discusses grief and depression. I had forgotten how this was discussed and it impressed me over again, especially when I read a specific passage. Not enough fantasy talks about mental health and I admire how this one does.

The magic and crows were amazing as ever. I loved having Res as a full character, even though he is actually a crow. The way Thia communicates with him fascinated me, and every time anybody insulted him by calling him chicken or pigeon it made me chuckle.

The only complaint I had is I didn’t feel as much connection to the characters as I wanted to, and I felt confused by them. I didn’t know who was who, which made the war councils and politics difficult too and I mainly just skim read the political scenes. However, I think a lot of this was from the fact I read the first book almost a year ago, and I wouldn’t have felt so confused if I had only just read the first book.

Overall, this was a brilliant, emotional and utterly beautiful conclusion to this duology. I loved it and would definitely recommend the series!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Ninth House (#1) by Leigh Bardugo

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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.

It’s no secret that I love Leigh Bardugo. I’ve read most of her books (excluding the Grisha trilogy) and I adored them. But from the release of Ninth House, I knew it would be different. I heard how dark this book was, the reasons it was published as adult fiction rather than YA. But I heard Leigh talk about it a few times at signings and talks late last year, and I really, really wanted to pick it up. She drew me in.

I found this book really tough to read but so alluring. I will warn you now, it is incredibly difficult to read in a lot of ways. Some of the scenes shocked me and disturbed me, and definitely need a warning. This book was not without gruesome scenes that really grossed me out.

Peace was like any high. It couldn’t last. 

But unfortunately it wasn’t just the gruesome scenes that made it difficult for me. I cannot hide the fact that I was just…confused. I don’t think the non-linear timeline and flitting points of view helped at all, I never quite knew what was happening or could grasp enough about the story to feel like I could completely understand.

Despite finding the story confusing, I couldn’t deny the writing was spectacular as always. I liked the pacing, which was slow but some of the fast paced scenes made up for it, gripping me on the edge of my seat in those occasional moments. I also loved the setting, which reminded me slightly of The Starless Sea. Having known Leigh Bardugo went to Yale herself, I could tell the passion she felt using her own University to set Ninth House in.

I loved Alex and the cast of characters in general. Darlington was great too and I really liked Alex’s friends and roommates as secondary characters. Bardugo does a great job of describing the way some rich white males feel in relation to privilege and power, and how they can use their privileges to whatever they feel entitled to, however soul-curdling those things may be. Bardugo does not hold back on these issues, and for that I appreciated her writing.

It was an illusion, something that could be interrupted in a moment and lost forever.

I did enjoy this book, but I also felt a disconnection from it that I wish I didn’t feel. Maybe I had too high expectations. Maybe I just prefer her YA fantasy. However I will definitely be reading the next book in the series, and I’ll be interested to see what my opinions of this book are when I reread it in future.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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