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The Bright and the Pale

[A quick note: This one was recc’d by a friend a year ago, and I just didn’t bother to pick it up. I finally did a buddy read with a friend, which is always a fun way to read a book you’re nervous about. But I enjoyed it so much and I’m already geared up to read the second book!]

Valeria has spent the majority of her life working for the Thieves guild. But when a deal goes wrong, she finds herself leading a group of cutthroats into the dangerous mines of Knott mountain. The same mountain that claimed her family’s lives. Now, if she cannot make the ultimate sacrifice, it will claim the life of the only boy she’s ever loved.

There was so much to love about this wintery story. While fairly safe and predictable, I was eager to see how everything unfolded. The pacing was absolutely perfect. I FLEW through the pages. The world building was intriguing and unique. But it was the secrets and intrigue that drove the story forward. My curiosity levels were at 100% the entire time. I love a story that stokes my intrigue. The author was a mastermind for creating tons of “why” questions that kept me going.

There are plenty of tropes to love. Betrayal, rebellion, chosen one, friends to lovers, found family, dangerous quest, evil tyrant, and more. While some of these tropes were handled more deftly than others, for a YA type book, they were done pretty well. The only one I would have liked more development from was the found family trope. The other characters could have had a bit more depth.

Okay, the setting!!!!! It had all the right wintery vibes. Valeria’s childhood was rough. She came from a cold village mining town at the base of Knott mountain. She was the only survivor of the “freeze” where everyone literally froze to death where they stood. Creepy!! But she survived. This made me soooo curious as to WHY?! Why her?? And then you have Knott mountain. A majority of the story is set here, which made it unique. How many stories are set in the dark mines of a mountain. It almost made me think of LOTR, being lost in the dark, with no way out.

I was NOT expecting this story to turn into a thriller. But by the halfway point, we find Valeria and her crew navigating the dangerous tunnels. There are monsters haunting their footsteps. It was eerie and nerve wracking. But I loved learning about the metal and the Bright God and the Pale God and the lore behind both.

I might call Valeria’s character arc a “reverse” arc. She does grow as a character, discovering a deep betrayal of someone she loved, someone she always believed loved her. But it’s deeper, she discovers a sinister secret that stretches all the way back to her childhood. And at the end of the book, she must make a difficult decision, that requires a sacrifice, of sorts. I feel like it’s a path that leads to darkness, perhaps? And thus, a possible reverse arc.

Overall, this was a fun, fast paced read that kept me curious the entire time. I breezed through, and can’t wait to pick up the second book. It’s got a lower average rating than I expected, but maybe I rated it higher because I didn’t know anything going in? Considering it was one of the most enjoyable YA books I’ve read in months, I felt it deserved full stars, despite a few minor flaws, none of which took away from my reading experience. 𝐌𝐘𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟓/𝟓⭐️


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