Mini-Review | The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns cover
Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

5 cupcakes

This collection of incredibly inventive, dark, and atmospheric short stories was completely enthralling, to the point where I didn’t even mind that I had already read a few of the included tales. Where the stories draw inspiration from classic fairy tales, such as The Little Mermaid and Hansel and Gretel, it’s just that: inspiration. This collection frequently subverts the source material in unexpected ways, creating a world where true love isn’t the solution to all problems. It’s one of the rare anthologies where I loved every single story and can’t wait to give it another read.

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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.

5 cupcakes

Ruin and Rising picks up immediately after the events in Siege and Storm, establishing a serious tone that persists throughout the entire story. The path to Ravka’s salvation is filled with trials and tribulations, as Bardugo shows time and time again. No one is truly safe, and unpredictable plot twists provide each character with their share of suffering.

As the story progresses, Alina continues to come into her own, becoming a powerful force to be reckoned with. She’s strong, loyal, and caring, and I truly believe that she got the ending she would have wanted, given how much she had been forced to endure. It may not be the choice that I would have made, but I can respect and accept her choices.

Ruin and Rising elaborates upon the Darkling’s back story, making him an incredibly sympathetic and complex villain who is arguably my favourite character in the series. He’s ruthless, power-hungry and manipulative, yet he possess this certain charisma that is very intriguing. Although the Darkling commits countless atrocities, his loneliness and need for an equal made me pity and love him even more.

Surprisingly, Mal managed to grow on me by the end of Ruin and Rising. He finally started seeing Alina’s powers as part of who she is, and selflessly gave her his full support and unfailing loyalty. While I still don’t ship them, certain interactions made me understand why some people do.

Nikolai/Sturmhond stole the show whenever he was in a scene. From his impossibly stylish entrance to his witty and arrogant quips, he provided a bit of lightness/comic relief, and his love for Ravka shone through his every action.

One of Ruin and Rising‘s biggest strengths lies in its secondary characters. Bardugo has created a colourful cast that possesses very distinct voices and personalities – all of whom are memorable in their own right. I truly enjoyed exploring their interactions and relationships, both with Alina and with one another.

Overall, reading Ruin and Rising was very much like being on an emotional roller-coaster. And while it may not have given me the ending I wanted, I believe that Ruin and Rising was a beautiful, authentic finish to one of my favourite series.

Waiting on Wednesday (February 19)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, which has an expected publication date of June 17, 2014.

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.

This is easily my most anticipated read of 2014. I absolutely adored Shadow and Bone, and somehow I enjoyed Siege and Storm even more. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage waiting until June to find out what happens with Ravka and the Darkling (but mostly the Darkling). And can I just say how gorgeous that cover is?! I need a copy on my shelf ASAP.

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below. 3

Book Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

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. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. 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 Rating: 5 cupcakes

I’m always wary about reading the middle book in a series, since so many suffer from the dreaded “second book syndrome.” We all know the symptoms: slow-moving plot, character regression, and an immense feeling of disappointment while reading. Thankfully, that was not the case with Siege and Storm, which was just as good as its predecessor.

Siege and Storm picks up almost immediately where Shadow and Bone left off, providing the reader with immediate action and many unexpected plot twiststhat will keep you on the edge of your seat. The inclusion of original fairy tales and mythology, coupled with exquisite food dishes, beautiful clothing, and vivid settings add even greater depth to the imaginative world of Ravka.

Alina is no longer the weak, naive girl that we saw in Shadow and Bone; she’s truly coming into her own, though the journey is decidedly bittersweet. Alina begins to hone her strength and assert herself in anticipation of a fight with the Darkling, though she struggles against the desire to attain even more power – and the repercussions that it could have for herself, her relationships, and Ravka.

Though I know that I shouldn’t care for him, the Darkling still holds the honour of being my favourite character in this series. He’s quite an intriguing and complex character: he’s power-hungry, manipulative, and could even be described as evil, though he also has touches of humanity that are difficult to ignore. To my dismay, his presence in this book is minimal, although he captured my full attention whenever he appeared in a scene – especially when showing off his dark new skills.

A new character is introduced in Siege and Storm, and he managed to win me over with ease. Sturmhond is witty and charming, bringing much-needed touches of humour to story. He’s also incredibly well composed, calculating, and adaptive, which are necessary qualities given his agenda.

And then there’s Mal. He started to grow on me towards the end of Shadow and Bone but, sadly, I didn’t like him in this book. He spends too much time feeling insecure in his relationship with Alina. I understand his reasoning – after all, she is the most powerful Grisha and he is a tracker who deserted the army – but after a while, I got tired of reading about it. Hopefully he’ll be more like his end-of-book-one-self in the sequel, since that guy was pretty adorable.

If I haven’t made it clear already, I absolutely loved Siege and Storm. It’s unputdownable and the perfect example of how to write a proper middle installment. I can’t wait to see what happens in Ruin and Rising – until then, I’ll be traipsing about in my very own kefta and trying to befriend guys that look like the Darkling.

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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 destroy 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.

My Rating: 5 cupcakes

From the first sentence, I was quickly drawn into the world of Ravka. The book begins quickly and never slows down, leaving me at the edge of my seat at all times. The plot was so well done, and I was so easily wrapped up in the story that the plot twist completely took me by surprise. By the time I hit the ~50% mark I found that I couldn’t tear myself away from the story, and now I’m kicking myself for not buying the sequel.

The world of Ravka is wonderfully imaginative. It’s a welcome change from the typical setting of “the middle ages,” and the elements of Russian folklore that are weaved into the world are a really nice touch. While the language and the Grisha hierarchy take a little bit of time to get used to (you have no idea how proud I was when I finally got the hang of it), they add to the magic and mystery that makes Ravka so intriguing.

I think it goes without saying that the writing is wonderful. The descriptions are vivid and I could easily visualize the Grisha world. It certainly helps that there’s a map at the beginning of the book, though the detailed descriptions kept me from having to tear myself away from the story and check it. And the romance! I found myself swooning over all the fictional men, since all of those scenes are just so well-written.

All of the characters were very well-developed. I can’t say too much about them since I don’t want to spoil anything, but they all had distinct personalities and I loved them all so much. Alina is naive, weak, and rather self-conscious at the beginning, but by the end of the book she has undergone a journey of self-discovery and becomes a force to be reckoned with. I loved her loyalty and determination, and I can’t wait to see how her character deals with certain conflicts in the sequel. Mal is sweet, loyal, brave, and protective. If it weren’t for the fact that he didn’t truly notice Alina until she was gone and the fact that I completely ship Alina and the Darkling I probably would have liked him a lot more though, admittedly, he did start to grow on me near the end. And then there’s the Darkling. It took less than two scenes for me to become hopelessly fascinated by his personality, power, and the mystery surrounding him. If there’s ever a novella written from his perspective, I can guarantee that I’ll be the first in line for it.

I absolutely loved Shadow and Bone, and I can’t recommend it enough. Go on, read it – you certainly won’t regret it.