Title: The Bright & the Pale
Author: Jessica Rubinkowski
Pub. Date: March 2, 2021
Pub: Quill Tree Books
Genre: YA Fantasy Mythology
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
This will be a spoiler free review. I listened to the audiobook via Audible. I’d heard some good things about this book, and ultimately it lived up to my expectations.
I kind of dove into this book a bit blindly. I didn’t know what I was in the mood to read, and this wasn’t a super long audiobook, so I went for it. I was also vividly remembering the art on the back of the dustjacket that I got from FairyLoot, and I was curious to put names to character faces.
As far as YA Fantasy goes, this was very much right up my alley in terms of what I like to read. I enjoyed the characters and their journey – it makes for an engaging read. The world comes to life and I felt like I was there along with the characters.
Valeria has maybe a smidge of Celaena running through her veins, so she’s definitely capable and a bit of a bad ass. She’s a little insecure and often resorts to storming off and saying things in the heat of the moment. But to be fair, the stakes are high, she’s faced with a lot of decisions that are life and death and the world is set against her.
Valeria’s life hasn’t been easy. It’s filled with loss and regret and pain, and she learns the hard way that not everyone is as honest as they seem.
Despite it all, she never stops fighting. She never gives up – not really. Valeria at the end of the book is vastly different that the girl she was at the start.
My only small complaint about her, is how quickly she is to anger and say things in the moment. She’s willing to do whatever, but rarely does she admit that she might be wrong. It’s like when things got hard, she’d shut down and push everyone way. Which is understandable considering her past and her circumstances, but it did grow a bit exhausting.
Alik is another character who needs to be protected at all costs and is in need of a hug. I loved him. His quiet determination, his strength despite everything he’s been through and the things he’s physically dealing with – he’s so strong. Even when he feels defeated, like he can’t go on, the fact that he gets back up and survives proves so much.
I loved his relationship with Valeria – for the most part. The times they ended up at each other’s throats for various reasons, grew tiring, but their chemistry was so great. And even though we don’t get to see all of their history, how they grew to become friends, and each other’s confidants – the one person they could wholly rely on – you still get that from them. Jessica did a wonderful job at portraying their relationship so believably and heart wrenchingly, without showing us all the background. I had no problems believing they had a history, their chemistry and the way they interacted was just so good.
I enjoyed the rest of the cast, the world and the ending had me really invested. Up to that point, I was kind of so-so about the book, not loving or hating it, just thinking it was a good YA Fantasy, but then the ending. The things that happened…the fact that I now have to wait for book 2?
It’s not fair.
I thought I was going to have to boycott the book if one of the things that happened wasn’t somehow magically fixed. Like, way to break my heart.
I need to know what happens next.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and it definitely left me wanting more. So, make sure you check this out, put it on your TBR and get to reading!