Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: 06/05/2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
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.Note: As much as I wanted to keep this review completely spoiler-free, it is impossible for me to gloss over the discussion of an important turning point in the book. In order to avoid spoilers if you have not read this book yet, please skip the fourth paragraph.
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.
Alina Starkov grew up as one orphan in a household of many at Keramzin, her parents having died in the wars that have ravaged Ravka for well over a century. The orphans of Keramzin are educated and then conscripted into the King's First Army, leaving their childhood years a period of waiting and loneliness. Alina didn't think she'd be any different until Mal came; the two became fast friends, traversing the depths of boredom and existing as a pair amidst the sea of many. Alina and Mal's regiment are scheduled to cross the Unsea, a dangerous journey when even the most talented individuals are involved. Alina always thought that she would never be special, that she would be alone; she never could have known that confronting her fear of the darkened Fold would challenge both of those things and turn her world inside out.
Within twenty pages of reading SHADOW AND BONE I knew that I was in for one of those rare all-nighters. I started this book and read and read and read and when I stopped it was 4.30 and, exhausted and full of fantastical places, I fell asleep to dream of Grisha wearing colorful kefta. I was pulled in immediately with the story of Alina as an orphan, hints at adventures with Mal, and the introduction of the mysterious Grisha and their leader, the Darkling. Though I was slightly taken aback when the time period shifted forward to her as a young adult, now conscripted in the First Army of Ravka, it only took a page or so for me to fall right into the older version of Alina and Mal. One of my favorite things about this story is how incredibly well developed the descriptions are; there was not a moment that didn't have some small element seamlessly weaving together a portrayal of a scene, whether it be for world building information or for what a character is wearing. As Grisha are one of the main themes in the book, the usage of color is inseparable from the narrative in order to separate the different specialties: Red, blue, purple, yellow, black, among others.
SHADOW AND BONE would just be a story without the magical way Leigh was able to dip into the depths of Russian history to create a narrative that is nuanced, gripping, and incredibly compelling. Not a page went by where I couldn't perfectly envision the world that was playing out in word form before my eyes. The embroidered keftas, the sense of urgency in running, awe and excitement at new circumstances - they were all detailed in such a way as to put the reader directly into a cast of wonderfully developed characters. Alina was, without a doubt, my favorite of lot. Much of the story is about Alina's sense of self-discovery, but told in a way that seamlessly created a narrative around her journey. She's strong, thoughtful, and knows when to say no. Thought there are moments when she wavers, I believe they're done in a way that are completely relatable to human experience.
As beautiful as the first part of the book was - and it was stunning - the pacing about one hundred pages from the end was the one thing that was able to remove me from the story and make me aware that I was an active reader and not living events through Alina's eyes. While a setup such as Alina had with the Darkling ("champion", distant trainer, love interest) is almost always too good to be true, the timeframe in which she is able to go from "the Darkling is not looking at me" to "he is a ruthless traitor" was unsettling. I never disagreed with her; I knew that she was right. But for all of the strong feelings that she had developed while at the Little Palace, that slight twist of belief changes the entire direction of the story. In her conversation with Baghra (and afterward), Alina reflects on certain moments and phrases that were breadcrumbs that eventually lead to shining light on what the Darkling was really after - all done in a compressed timeframe. While I fully believe those moments definitely allude to his foul play, her acceptance seems to be too much, too fast. Still, there's something about the play between darkness and light in this book that leads me to believe that all is not done between these two, and to say that I'm interested in seeing where Leigh takes things would kind of be an understatement.
SHADOW AND BONE is one of the most beautifully constructed and compelling fantasies that I've read in quite some time. Everything about it hits just about every one of my interests: just the right amount of world building, characters that feel complete and nuanced, and a narrative that is able to tie all of these things together. If you have the opportunity, and a few hours block open on your schedule, I definitely suggest that you find a comfy, quiet spot and read it at your leisure. I absolutely cannot wait to read SIEGE AND STORM.
Author: Victoria Schwab
Publication Date: 01/22/2013
Source: ARC (Thanks to Hyperion and Victoria at NYCC!)
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.
Sometimes there are just books that you know are meant for you. Maggie Stiefvater's THE SCORPIO RACES was one of those books, and as soon as I read the tagline for THE ARCHIVED, I knew it would end up on a very small shelf of favorites, too. The narrative beautifully transitions from the present to the past, highlighting the moments that Mackenzie spent with her grandfather that lead her to becoming his successor as Keeper. Though we don't see much of him throughout the course of the book, we don't need to as the moments in which he's present his personality are vivid and commanding. These flashbacks highlight his importance in Mackenzie's life, their bond, and the rules that, as a Keeper, she must live by. Though the Archive and the outside world have a symbiotic relationship, it is precariously balanced, and it's Keepers like Mac that have to play by the rules for order to be sustained. Bruises, omissions, and absences in order to create peace for both.
The incredible thing about this book is the way Victoria effortlessly links the construct of the Archive into present-day reality. We open countless amounts of doors per day, we go to libraries for history and knowledge. Topics and genres mapped out on shelves for our perusal. But with the touch of a key Mackenzie has access to a library that makes her life so completely different than anything we can imagine. The Archive has history and knowledge on shelves, collecting first-hand accounts. Every time Mac stepped into the Archive I could imagine a sweeping great room with stacks higher than I could see, cathedral ceilings and a gilded desk neatly arranged with papers and writing utensils. And, of course, a sign. An information desk like any and none other.
In a book about information and what it means to have it, THE ARCHIVED's characters are equally nuanced. Just when I thought I knew something about someone, a layer quietly peeled back and revealed just enough of something else to be surprising but not too much so that it would be out of place with what I had already learned. Mac is a clever and strong girl with quick responses who struggles with how to relate her position as a Keeper to her life as a daughter and a normal person. She has to deal with extraordinary circumstances, yet her struggles are relatable and convincing. One of my favorite things about this book is that every conversation - every word - has a purpose without feeling overwhelming. My favorite character, Roland, is one you meet fairly soon into the story, though it's almost difficult to pick because the Archive is literally riddled with a small starring cast that shines.
THE ARCHIVED has something in it for everyone: strong characterisation, mystery, beautiful prose, and a narrative that includes a touching and believable romance. This is literally a book that I had to pace myself reading because I didn't want it to end. I will say, however, for those that tend to prefer stand-alone to series, I absolutely believe that it will stand on its own as a singular story without the necessity of reading on. Me, though? I can't wait to pre-order the second installment.
Publication Date: 11/06//2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.
While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.
But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
One of my favorite things about DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT is its pacing; if you've read DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE then you know what happens to Karou at the end. In many books the division between characters* would have been navigated inexpertly and some sort of unsatisfying reunion would take place. Laini Taylor deftly avoids that in her writing by her incredibly talented narrative pacing throughout the arc of the series, leaving this installment to explore Karou and what needs to happen in order for her to grow and accept the possibility the future brings. While I would classify this book ultimately as one that focuses on Karou, the Akiva (and other) moments were perfectly tuned to the overall octave of the story. It is a beautiful and compelling read.
If you have not begun this series I highly, highly recommend it for its beautiful creativity and writing. If you read book one at some crazy point in 2011, don't worry, this installment will catch up up with all of the pertinent points and then some to fill in all of the gaps.
Also, as I'm sure you've by now noticed, the titles of both books contain the same amounts of the same letters. The acronym for book one is DOBAS and book two's is DOSAB. I'm rather curious to see if book three will follow in the same footsteps.
*I'm being deliberately vague here to avoid large spoilers for both books.