Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo 
Pages: 417 
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): 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.

Tears. Tears everywhere. Ugly, gross tears too. Not the dainty cute kind. 

This series has been such a joy to read - it's probably one of my favourite trilogies of all time. Everything was heartbreaking and wonderful and I couldn't stop reading until it was over and my poor little heart could rest. 

And oh, the Darkling - my poor disturbed darling. He was amazing in this installment, but we also got to see a lot more complexity. I will love him forever, no matter how dark his soul is. Alina continued to kick ass, and Mal was pure sweetness. Nikolai was probably my favourite this time around, although Genya was a very close second. There were some amazing lines all around, and each of the characters deserves a long, comforting hug. 

I recommend this trilogy to anyone and everyone who has ever enjoyed reading something paranormal, fantasy, or dystopian. Consider the fact that I ran out to the bookstore at the crack of dawn (they don't open at dawn, so more like nine in the morning, but STILL) and read each one in the same sitting, I'd say this series is well worth it. 

Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo 
Pages: 432
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): 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.

I was terrified that the second book in the trilogy wouldn't live up to the first, but I need not have worried (or doubted Leigh Bardugo!). 

The new characters were an amazing addition to the story. I absolutely adore the twins, and Nikolai is swoon-worthy to say the least. Just like the first in the series, this novel refused to be put down. I finished in just a little over five hours and had one of those "oh my gosh that was so good I don't even know what I'm supposed to be feeling right now" moments where you stare at nothing and attempt to compose yourself to no avail. Book hangover to the extreme, guys. 

And oh my gosh, THAT ENDING. I just... I have no words. I still can't fully explain my feelings. Just do me a favour and grab yourself a copy of all three novels in this amazing trilogy. You won't regret it, I promise. 

Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo 
Pages: 358 
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): 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.

Because I read all three books in the trilogy in less than a week (and because I want to keep from spoiling this amazing series for anyone) I'm going to keep my reviews short and sweet. 

This book hooked me from the very first sentence. Bardugo's writing is AMAZING - I couldn't put the book down for more than a few seconds at a time (needless to say, it would be a bad idea to start reading right before bed). I full-on cheered when Alina finally realized her potential, and everything that came after ... well, here's your warning: read this book with a box of tissues in arm's reach. You will need them. 

I don't read much heavy fantasy anymore, but this trilogy has reawakened my love of all things fantasy and paranormal. I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys paranormal YA, fantasy, and sci-fi, as well as anyone new to the genres. 

The Miniaturist

Author: Jessie Burton 
Pages: 400 
Publisher: Ecco 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin. 

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways ...

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshiped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

My Summary: Nella is a new bride who has not spent more than a few minutes alone with her new husband. Arriving on his doorstep to begin her life as his wife, she is shocked to find that there is nobody there to welcome her but her sister-in-law: a hard, unkind woman who seems to enjoy nothing more than finding fault in everyone.

Life with her husband and sister-in-law is dull, but things change dramatically when Johannes gives Nella his wedding gift: a cabinet containing a miniature replica of their home. Tasked with filling it with miniature furniture, Nella finds herself communicating by letter with a mysterious woman who seems to know much more about Nella's new life than even she does. 

Unable to confront the miniaturist, Nella does the only thing she can: try to figure out what the miniatures are telling her, and  do whatever she can to survive. But even with the miniaturist's advanced warnings, Nella finds her world collapsing around her in a way that she could never have prepared herself to deal with.

My Thoughts: This was one of my highly-anticipated reads of the new year, and I gotta say: it was well worth the wait! The premise intrigued me immediately, and the gorgeous cover had me scrambling to get myself a copy as soon as I could. 

The writing flowed beautifully and felt almost like prose at times. The cast of characters were all so well-developed and layered that I couldn't choose a favourite. For all her flaws, I really loved Marin - she had such amazing complexity that I couldn't help but sympathize for her. My heart ached for Johannes, and his inability to do anything as his world came crashing down was incredibly hard to watch. 

I loved the creepy element of the miniaturist; I wish we'd gotten more information about her! I'd definitely want to read a novel centering around her and her back-story. I also really liked that the city of Amsterdam itself was almost a character in a way, and that the reader got to see the contrast between the glittering, wealthy side and the dark, gritty side. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys Gothic lit as well as historical fiction.