Book Review – Crooked Kingdom

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Book Review – Ruin & Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 17, 2014

Length: 422 pages

Read Date(s): May 19, 2021 – May 21, 2021


Goodreads Synopsis

The capital has fallen.

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.

My Review

***This review contains major spoilers. Do not read further if you haven’t read the book! You’ve been warned. ;)***

First of all, I just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading this trilogy. The books were not perfect and things didn’t always go the way I wanted them to, but the story and world were fascinating and enjoyable. I didn’t realize how much I came to care about the characters until I finished the books and there was no more story to read. The author did a great job creating lovable (and hate-able) characters, which kept me invested throughout each of the books. I was worried I would not enjoy the books since I had seen some really harsh reviews, but I’m happy I made the decision to read them. And I’m really looking forward to the author’s other outings in the Grishaverse.

I loved the first half of this book. There were so many great moments. I was intrigued by Alina toying with the Darkling by using the power he used to tormented her in the previous book. The return of Nikolai had me smiling from ear to ear. Mal was less Mal-like and actually had some really likeable moments. The new locales were interesting, and the conflict with the Apparat was an insightful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of faith and organized religion. There was a lot to like even if the pacing was a bit slow at times.

Although I liked his character much more in this book, Mal’s abrupt change in personality seemed odd to me. I understand they were underground for at least a few months, but that still seemed a bit quick to have such a drastic personality shift. I wish there had been a little more development of the change in him from jealous and petty boyfriend to dutiful, faithful protector.

There were some powerful scenes in this book that made me feel so many things. A lot of what happened with Nikolai and Baghra broke my heart. Genya dealing with her scars and standing up to the king were beautiful to read. The sacrifice Alina made at the end to defeat the Darkling was gut-wrenching. The role of loneliness, fear, and traumatic persecution in the Darkling’s story, and the inevitable ending of his arc, were poignantly tragic. The author really did a fantastic job of creating a very human villain, and, like Baghra, I so badly wanted to see him be redeemed despite the terrible things he did. I was also struck by how this book, and his story, ended with mercy, although a different kind than the ending with the stag from the first book. His anguish jumped off the page during those last scenes, and his death, in my opinion, was an act of mercy that halted his torment and endless isolation.

All that being said, the second half of the book did not go the way I expected or wanted. I wanted to see an epic showdown between light and dark, and the ending didn’t really give me that. It felt a bit anticlimactic. Alina completely losing her powers was another aspect I disliked. It seemed almost like all the character development I loved in the last book was thrown out the window so she could have a country life with Mal. Although, I did like the message of the power being dispersed among the people; I just wish she would have been able to keep some of it. Despite not getting what I wanted, the ending made sense. It wrapped up many of the story lines well and set Nikolai up to have some (hopefully) good stories of his own in future books. The plot twists tied together clues from the previous books, and I enjoyed the deepening of the history and lore of the world they provided.

Overall, I liked the book and the trilogy as a whole. That author was great at creating characters that evoke emotion and built an interesting world for them to live in. While I hoped for a different ending, what we got made sense and tied up loose ends well even if it wasn’t completely satisfying. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Stacking the Shelves #6

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! The meme is hosted by Reading Reality.

Weekly Wrap-Up

This has been kind of a weird week. I went a little crazy with the book buying even though I didn’t mean to. I’ve just been feeling a little off, and getting the new books made me feel better. I’ve worked a lot this week. It seems to come in waves, and there was quite a bit to do. Next week should hopefully be slower, and I’m thankful for it. The weather this week has been whack with a ton of rain and gloomy, humid days, which meant less time outside in the sunshine. However, I did get a lot of reading in this week. I finished an audiobook and read three novels. Overall, I’ve enjoyed what I read this week, and I’m looking forward to sharing my reviews of them with you all.

Amazon Purchases

I snagged a couple free ebooks on Amazon, Breakaway and Of Blood and Fire. I also ordered the hardback versions of Carry On and Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell. I read these two Simon Snow books after checking them out from the library. I liked them so much I wanted my own copies, and I plan to re-read them before the third book comes out in a couple of months.

e-ARC Acquisition

I only downloaded one new eARC from NetGalley this week. So, my ratio should hold steady because I finished one NetGalley eARC this week, as well.

Library Acquisition

I made another trip to the library this week because I just could not wait to finish off this trilogy. I picked it up a couple days after finishing the last one, and I finished reading it yesterday. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on it within the next couple of weeks.

Barnes & Noble Purchases

I didn’t even try to stay away from B&N this week. I went looking for The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne and ended up buying all of the remaining Grishaverse books too. Oops. The cashier asked if I wanted to buy one of their reusable totes, and I got one of those too. I figured I would need it given how often I’m carting books out of there…

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve added to my shelves this week, and I’m looking forward to reading it all. Have you read any of the books I picked up? If so, what did you think? Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review – Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 4, 2013

Length: 435 pages

Read Date(s): May 15, 2021 – May 16, 2021


Reading Challenge Update

Before I get to the review, I wanted to celebrate the fact that this is my 50th book of the year! I can’t even remember the last time I read 50 books in a year. Honestly, it may never have happened before. So, I’m excited to have reached this milestone. It also means I’m already halfway to my goal for the year!

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

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.

My Review

NOTE: This review contains some spoilers. So, read on at your own risk if you haven’t read the book yet!

I liked this book more than the first one. It had the same engaging style and witty dialogue that I enjoyed from the first book. It also gave me many of the things I felt were missing from the first book. I wanted to see more of the machinations at court and deeper building of the world and lore, and I got it. This book provided a lot of background information about the amplifiers that helped me understand the plot of both this story, and the previous one, much better. It also spent more time devoted to politics and the squabbles of the royal family, which I enjoyed.

Alina’s character was also deepened considerably throughout the course of the novel. It was interesting to see her grapple with what to do with her power now that she accepted it. She grew in many ways, and I liked reading about her struggle with learning politics and how to become a leader. The loneliness and greed that can often accompany great power and positions in leadership were things she worked to understand and overcome during the story while also navigating relationships with a wide range of men who wanted to use her power for their own gain. These struggles made the character much more relatable.

The new additions to the cast in this book were fantastic. I especially loved the privateer and his relationship with Alina. They had great chemistry and a playful dynamic. I enjoyed his charisma and intellectual nature because they added some levity to the book.

The one character I still hated was Mal. His pettiness and jealousy almost ruined this book for me. The relationship between him and Alina is super angsty. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; he just always seemed to be holding Alina back. I think her relationship with him is the security blanket that she needs to grow beyond to come into her own, and I can only hope that will happen before the series is over.

The plot of this book left a lot to be desired, as well. I was frustrated by the first several chapters because it felt like a lot of the character development, especially for Alina, had been undone, and the story quickly became a rehash of the same plot points from the first book. I think at one point she even commented in the book that they were right back where they started. Luckily, that changed pretty quickly into the book, but I still think the beginning could have been better. After the rough beginning, most of the book was spent preparing for a siege, as the name of the book implies. I enjoyed this because it gave time for learning about the world, the character development, and politics. However, not a whole lot happened plot-wise during this time. Then after all the time preparing, the climax of the book only lasted 20-30 pages, if that. I enjoyed how it all happened, but I wish more time had been spent describing the actual siege. In the end, the characters are largely in a similar situation to the one at the beginning of the book, which was frustrating after reading over 400 pages, but my feelings of frustration were tempered by knowing many of the characters have grown because of what happened in the book.

Another big complaint is the lack of the Darkling for most of the book. He was my favorite character from the first book. So, I was disappointed not to see more of him. He literally phoned in his appearances, but they were still well done and continued to build his creepiness. I think the story may have been better if we got to see some of the things he was doing from his POV, but I also get that it’s really Alina’s story. I’m just hoping he will have more of a presence in the next book.

Overall, the book was an improvement on the first one. It added many elements I thought were lacking in the first book (more info about amplifiers, politics, and deeper world-building). I also liked most of the themes and characters a lot more, except for Mal. The plot wasn’t perfect, but it was interesting. I just wished there was more of the Darkling. Therefore, I rated the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you read Siege and Storm? What did you think?

Stacking the Shelves #5

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! The meme is hosted by Reading Reality.

Weekly Wrap-Up

This has been a pretty good week for me. I finished a couple new books that I enjoyed, and I picked up some new stuff from Barnes & Noble and the library. I also got approved for a new book on NetGalley, which I’m looking forward to reading. The first part of the week was heavy on reading because the weather was gloomy and rainy, but I’ve been able to spend a lot of time outside the last couple of days working in my garden, which has been fun. I should have some vegetables soon (fingers crossed). Overall, it has been a pretty successful week, and I enjoyed the books I read (The Lost Apothecary, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, & Dark Farm).

Author Request

I had another author request this week and received the book in exchange for agreeing to write a review. It seems like a neat paranormal YA book. So, I’m looking forward to reading it and giving you all my opinion. Thank you to the author for the request!

e-ARC Acquisitions

I only downloaded one new eARC from NetGalley this week. So, I once again balanced out what I was able to get read with new acquisitions.

Library Acquisition

I made another trip to the library this week. I placed this book on hold a few weeks ago and have been waiting rather impatiently for it. Unfortunately, all the copies were checked out…so, I’ve had to wait. I’m ready to see what happens next for Alina, the Darkling, and Mal. I’m actually starting this book today and am pretty excited about it.

Barnes & Noble Purchases

I tried to stay away from the bookstore this week. I swear I did, but I found myself right across the street for another reason. Then the car just went to Barnes & Noble all on its own, and it would have been rude not to go inside. So, I was able to pick up three new books I’ve been interested in getting. 🙂

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve added to my shelves this week, and I’m looking forward to reading it all. Have you read any of the books I picked up? If so, what did you think? Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review – Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 5, 2012

Length: 358 pages

Read Date(s): April 24, 2021 – April 26, 2021


Goodreads Synopsis

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

My Review

I decided to finally read this book because I wanted to watch the Netflix series. I had been contemplating it for a while, but I stayed away from it because of the mixed reviews it has gotten. I knew I would feel guilty about watching the show without reading the book first. So, I took the plunge and got the book from the library. It was a mixed bag for me; there were things I really enjoyed and others that annoyed me a lot.

For the most part, I enjoyed the plot and the world the author created for this story. It started out a bit slow, but the second half of the book was much more intense and fast-paced. There were some twists I didn’t see coming, which is always nice, and others I picked up on pretty quickly. The plot involving the amplifiers was somewhat confusing to me and left me with quite a few questions that I hope will be answered later in the series. The magic system in this world was a lot to digest at first with so many different groupings, but I found the various powers, and the order built around them, interesting. If anything, the book could have used more time spent on exploring the different factions and court intrigue because I found the world fascinating. However, I enjoyed the world-building style of slowly introducing different concepts throughout the story rather than doing a ton of huge info dumps.

The characters were hit or miss for me. I didn’t really care for Alina at first. She was annoying and constantly seemed obsessed with her looks and those of everyone else. She also acted helpless and did not want to accept her power, which I found frustrating. As her journey through the book progressed, I came to like her character more and more. I enjoyed the character progression quite a bit and am interested to see where her character goes next given how the book ended. I did not like Mal or the way he treated Alina for most of the book. I do not want them to end up together in the end. He came across as jealous and possessive, especially whenever he first interacted with Alina after she learned to use her powers. My favorite character was the Darkling. He was mysterious, dark (as implied by the name), and dangerous. I thought his relationship with Alina was one of the highlights of the book, even if it represented everything a healthy relationship should not be. I am curious to see if any of the feelings he had for her and the background he discussed early in the book were real or just a ploy to use her.

I enjoyed many of the themes the book portrayed. I especially liked how the book showed the detriments of hiding one’s true self for the sake of others. It can leave someone a husk of themselves, which this book showed well. I also loved the emphasis on how the power of mercy is stronger than that of death and destruction.

Overall, I enjoyed a lot about this book and thought it was a good book. I’m glad I read it. The world and themes were intriguing and engaging even if the plot and characters weren’t always that interesting. I recommend it for anyone who likes YA fantasy and doesn’t mind the usual tropes for that genre. Therefore, I rate the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think? Just don’t spoil the next two books for me. 🙂