These books have been on my radar for so long. I've averted my eyes when faced with reviews. From what I'd accidentally snatched from those, they were great. Greatly anticipated, too. My friend Mabel moved onto these after completing a Survivalist / Post-Apocalyptic Cluster Assignment of my design. That was enough to bump them up to priority one on my TR list. It was time.
I won't be separating out my comments for each book. Why? Because both books were excellent and most of my comments apply to both. The quality remaineth constant. Also:
- The cover art. I. am. gobsmacked. Repeatedly. Bardugo really won the lottery here. Twice.
- The narrative is told from multiple perspectives. This took me some time to warm to; I was struggling to feel attached to any single character, and the female characters in particular weren't grabbing me. By about midway through Book 1, I cared. My care only grew from there. As the heist starts to come together, I felt the slow pull of Bardugo's reel. I cared about these characters and what they were about. At the end of it all I was googling fan art. Each character and his/her nature and voice are distinct from each other. The motives for the entire crew (and their nemeses) are incredibly strong. The characters' flaws were some of the most affronting I've encountered. It made things interesting.
- Bardugo increasingly employs flashbacks to aid in her characterisation. I cared even more for each character after each of these. Being ripped out of chronological time for back story so often irks me. She does it well. I think I'd been craving the special features on each of the characters right when she served them. Impressive. There's a small chance these came a little too late (I should've cared for a couple of characters more, earlier), but in the case of this troupe of players, all's well that end's well. I finished happy about what I knew of each. I do not love any one of the characters with a passion like I do those in my mental Hall of Greats. But I am very impressed by the characterisation for Kaz -- that makes the Hall of Greats -- I just don't love him.
- The depths of the darkness made me wince now and then. The writing was so beautiful that it made the dark art.
- Own bullet: the writing is beautiful. The figurative language warrants reading twice regularly.
- The dialogue humour wasn't often to my taste, but the thoughtful and punchy lines were perfection. There's one part delivered by Inej that I'll be quoting for the rest of my life. Amazing.
- There is graphic violence as part of that darkness. There is sufficient action that I think Haki should read these.
- Sensuality: many references to pleasure houses and human trafficking, almost all without detail (Book 2 offers one paragraph with some hard hitting specifics), more to paint human character history and city character's underbelly. There are also references to attraction and yearning between characters. No sex scenes. References to nudity and kissing.
- The city is a character. The world-build is exquisite. The national and socioeconomic cultures (oh the layers), the languages and translations (breath-taking moments here), the names, the beliefs and spirituality...it is all so rich and well-spun. Attraction takes place between a variety of sexes so that a crisscrossing web emerges.
- It is mechanically so well-plotted and crafted. Some times I felt slightly miffed that Bardugo repeatedly likes to work towards a reveal instead of allowing me inside the inner circle (I have to wait to see how things come together with the punters), but I came to know, then accept and finally relish her mode.
- I made my way through these slower than I usually do YA. I found them compelling, and I'm not sure if it was the Christmas season and all it's trappings and magic that stilted my progress, or whether I would've taken my time whenever I cracked these covers. Suffice to say, these were not one-night reads.
- I was highly satisfied with Book 2's ending.
If you don't mind being left in the dark and a good splash of revenge and think Ocean's Eleven set in a fantastical dark ages sounds delicious, get on it. Aaaaand you should know there is a trilogy set in the same world if you are left hungering for more.