Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. There’s no such thing as a perfect book, but there were definitely some major things that made me almost not enjoy this book. (Disclaimer: Historically, I haven’t been a fan of dark academia).
What I wasn’t a huge fan of:
- The first 200 pages are basically a giant info dump. I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was reading for a long time, and while I kept charging through, this will definitely turn off a lot of readers right off the bat. In Bardugo’s past books, her worldbuilding usually improves in book two of her series. But Ninth House has alternating timelines, which doesn’t make the beginning any less confusing. A lot of important worldbuilding information wasn’t explained until late into the book, which made this book a bit of a chore to get through.
- The plot is fairly slow moving. Because of the info dump beginning, there is a lot of narration and flashbacks. This gets in the way of the actual plot, which picked up around page 300.
- I generally enjoy reading dark books, but Ninth House almost verges on being too dark. Basically anything bad that can happen happens. Alex, the main character, had a hard past, but it’s almost too hard, if that makes sense. There’s a lot of violence that happens that’s almost unnecessary; it feels like violence for the sake of violence, as if Bardugo is trying to prove that she can write an adult book.
But the saving graces were:
- Darlington. And from what I’ve heard from other people who have read the book, we’re in agreement! He is definitely the shining character; his backstory resonated with me more than Alex’s. He has a great personality, and a charisma that bounces off of the page. And in a book full of morally grey characters, his character was welcoming.
- Bardugo’s actual writing is great. Her dialogue is always on-point. Her characterization is great. Her descriptions are lush and flow well. She’s clearly a smart writer, and her knowledge of Yale really shapes this book.
- The ending. The ending was the best part of the book, and it made me want to read the rest of the series. I have high hopes for the second book!
If you like dark academia, intense magic systems, and morally gray characters, then give this one a shot! Pro tip: There’s a small index in the back of the book that I recommend checking out before you start reading. If I knew it was there, the beginning definitely would’ve made a little more sense!
VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.5 /5
Trigger warnings: Pretty much everything: violence, gore, rape, murder, sexual assault, drug use. If you don’t like dark books, then I don’t recommend this book.
Alexis: Read 2/20/19
Ruin and Rising was certainly the best book of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. I disliked Alina’s character in the first two books, and I felt like she became a more complex character in this one. Additionally, Mal had zero personality in the first two books, and he felt more real to me in Ruin and Rising, as well.
Everyone can agree with me here: Nikolai is still the most vibrant character. He has a sparkling personality and he knows what he wants. He echoes the beginning of Bardugo’s masterfully crafted characters in the Six of Crows series.
As for the plot, I feel like the first half of the book meanders. There’s a whole host of secondary characters that I didn’t really care about, except for Genya.
And time for an unpopular opinion: I don’t like the Darkling. He’s creepy, manipulative, and honestly rapey. His beauty doesn’t make up for that.
Okay, so I really enjoyed the plot twists in the second half of the book. Mal being the third amplifier? Nikolai getting turned into a monster? I didn’t see either of those coming, and it made the book more exciting!
The ending felt very Hunger Games to me: boy and girl get together and live a nice, normal life together, where they can grieve together forever. I honestly didn’t mind the ending, as I think it was the happiest ending for Alina and Mal. But Alina losing her power was anticlimactic and confusing. It felt unnecessary. Plus, she had such a good character arc by Ruin and Rising that I felt it was unfair for her to return to how she was in the beginning of the series.
Despite some of my issues with this book, I really enjoy the Grishaverse and I couldn’t put this book down. I enjoyed seeing Bardugo’s writing style evolve!
VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books
Alexis: The little snow that we got turned into mush and then rain, so I was able to get my library books! Here’s a library haul part 2.
- Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
- The Afterlife by Thomas Pierce
- Caraval by Stephanie Garber
- The River of Doubt by Candice Millard
For a change of pace, I’m intersecting my fantasy reads with some different genres! Even though I love fantasy and YA fantasy, I’m tired of the same tropes being recycled (I’m looking at you, love triangle). Sometimes I need to take a break and read something different.
I’ve dedicated this past week to reading the first two books in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and hopefully I can get the last book from the library next week!
I read the Six of Crows Duology last year and I absolutely loved it, so I was looking forward to reading the first books in Bardugo’s Grishaverse.
I seem to agree with everyone else (at least on Goodreads) that the second book in the trilogy is better than the first. I was surprised to find that the first book relied on some tropes, the most prevalent of which is the love triangle. However, I thought that Shadow and Bone did a great job when it came to worldbuilding and introducing the Grisha’s powers.
The second book’s plot is much more intricate than the first. It honestly reminds me of The Hunger Games. Politics come into play, and Alina starts to become a powerful symbol of hope. I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced, but I felt like Mal’s character wasn’t as strong as he was in the first book. However, Bardugo’s keen sense of humor comes out more in the second book.
Minor spoilers below:
One of the biggest issues I have with the two books is the way that male characters interact with Alina, which, unfortunately, only gets worse in Siege and Storm. Multiple male characters touch and kiss Alina without her consent, and the way the Darkling interacts with her makes me sick. In Siege and Storm, no one respects that Alina and Mal are in a relationship, and she gets kissed and even gets marriage proposals. I understood all of this happens for plot reasons, but here Alina is, in a different love triangle than in the first book, and she even enjoys the attention from Nikolai.
I feel like I say this in every review, but despite my issues with the books, I did enjoy reading them. I love the Grishaverse and I’m interested to see where the third book goes. I just can’t help comparing this series to the Six of Crows Duology. It’s interesting to see how much Bardugo’s writing has evolved.
Shadow and Bone: 3 out of 5 books
Siege and Storm: 4 out of 5 stars
Library haul time! These are some of my most anticipated reads on my #tbr list.
- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
- Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
- The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
- In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Anna and I went to a coffee shop and got some work and writing done today. And then we went to Ulta, my second favorite store after Barnes and Noble.
I’m starting with In the Midst of Winter since it’s currently 28 degrees outside and dropping! I’ve always loved Isabel Allende’s writing style and I’m enjoying the beginning of the book.