Title: The Bright and the Pale
Author: Jessica Rubinkowski
Genre: YA Fantasy / Retellings / Russian Folklore
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!
“Seventeen-year-old Valeria is one of the only survivors of the freeze, a dark magical hold Knnot Mountain unleashed over her village. Everyone, including her family, is trapped in an unbreakable sheet of ice. Ever since, she’s been on the run from the Czar, who is determined to imprison any who managed to escape. Valeria finds refuge with the Thieves Guild, doing odd jobs with her best friend Alik, the only piece of home she has left.
That is, until he is brutally murdered.
A year later, she discovers Alik is alive and being held against his will. To buy his freedom, she must lead a group of cutthroats and thieves on a perilous expedition to the very mountain that claimed her family. Only something sinister slumbers in the heart of Knnot.
And it has waited years for release.
CW: death of a family member, discrimination, childhood trauma, work camps” (Goodreads)
This book was definitely a mixed bag. There were some interesting moments but there was also too much that I didn’t like or just left me with questions.
From the beginning of the book I just felt like something was missing. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was but it just felt off and it could have been because the beginning almost seems like we are already in the middle of things and the plot has already begun in a sense. There isn’t a lot of time to form bonds with the characters before plot twists happen which then make me feeling nothing. This happened a lot for me.
It could also be because a lot of the characters were flat and even the main character, Valeria, had development issues as well. She is the strongest of the characters but I also never formed a connection to her. Her moods also changed rather quickly and sometimes it just felt like too much because she would quickly jump to conclusions.
When it came to the romance, there really isn’t anything to say about it. It was lackluster. Valeria would think about kissing him one minute and the next she couldn’t possibly understand where he is coming from when it comes to his thinking. She could never process that maybe she could be wrong about the argument they would always get into even though as the reader it was easy to tell. The love interest was flat and it made it hard to feel anything for him. Since this is a duology, I know there will be more between them in the next book but because I didn’t feel anything, even though the ending had a cliffhanger, I have no interest in continuing.
The world building was interesting and I think was the best part of the book. I did like reading about where Valeria came from and the curse. I do wish there would have been more about the Brother gods from the beginning but I’m sure they will have a much bigger part in the next book.
Overall, it was okay but just not enough to sway me to like it. I think some readers may like it if they like lighter fantasy.