Published by HarperCollins, Quill Tree Books
Release Date: March 2 2021
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Format Read: ARC, eBook
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 (less)
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
There is a part of the year that any well-seasoned New Englander or Midwesterner will know, when the winter no longer feels bright with possibilities and holiday cheer, but instead dark and gloomy and just so cold. Endlessly cold. Here in Indiana we’re looking at a balmy forecast of 10 degrees next week. Right now, in early February, as we look ahead at three more months of frigid weather, we can assuredly say, at least here in the Midwest, that we’re in the Worst Part of Winter TM.
But the one saving grace of the dark part of winter? Russian fantasy. There is something special about reading Russian fantasy in the worst part of winter. Afterall, who knows cold and icy temperatures quite like the Russians of lore? After reading book two in Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, a series I absolutely adore for its vivid and vast fantasy worldbuilding, that is equally matched with its painstakingly detailed homage to Medieval Russia, I picked up Jessica Rubinkowski’s debut novel, The Bright & the Pale.
The first in a duology, The Bright & the Pale is the story of 17-year-old Valeria, who escapes after a dark curse freezes her entire village. Valeria travels south, training to become an expert thief while evading the Czar and his minions, the Storm Guards. However, when a thievery mission goes awry, Valeria is forced to return to the village she once thought she’d escaped. Accompanied by a motley crew, Valeria leads an expedition to the Knott Mountain, hoping to secure a valuable mineral, Lovite, that, she hopes, will pay her way to escape the brutal rule of the Czar for good. Yet, on her journey, Valeria begins to experience vivid dreams; something ominous is calling to her.
I won’t spoil it for you, of course, but I will tell you that I loved The Bright & the Pale, and I’m already eagerly awaiting the second book! At first, reading it right after the dramatic worldbuilding of Arden’s novel, I felt a little let down by the lack of detailed nuance. I wanted more imagery! I wanted more Russian colloquialisms! But, by about a quarter of the way into the book, I realized this is the perfect winter-y book for teens or adult lovers of YA! The characters are strong and complex, each character, not just Valeria, is fighting for something and as you unwrap the layers of their personalities and traumas, you will begin to appreciate the world that Rubinkowski has created. So, grab your coziest blanket (or two if, like me, you’re trapped in the Midwestern United States), brew up a cup of tea, and get ready to dive headfirst into a fast-paced novel. Seriously, the action starts in the very first chapter and it never let’s up! If you love Russian folklore, you’ll enjoy this book!
Hi, I’m Caitlyn! During the day I’m a graduate student, so you can usually find me hiding in the corner of a coffee shop (iced coffee always in hand) reading, writing, or lesson planning. But, come nighttime, I’m always trying to squeeze in a few extra pages of whatever I’m reading for fun. I love to decorate with books and antique trinkets, light a musky woodsy candle, and curl up with my cat, Mercutio, to devour fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction, or, really, whatever I’m feeling in the moment!