Title: The Bright & The Pale
Author: Jessica Rubinkowski
Page Length: 368
Publication Date: Mar. 2, 2021
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Synopsis: 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.
The first book in a thrilling new duology, The Bright and the Pale follows Valeria, the sole survivor of a curse that froze her entire village and all of its occupants. Raised by the leader of a guild of thieves alongside her best friend Alik, Valeria is now a thief for the guild. However, when a heist goes wrong, Valeria is devastated to learn that Alik perished.
A year later, Valeria finds out that Alik is alive and needs rescuing. Valeria is overjoyed and knows that she will do whatever it takes to find him. However, to save him, Valeria is told that she must lead a group of people on a dangerous mission back to her home – a home she swore never to return to. Can Valeria survive this deadly journey and rescue her friend?
Valeria is a great protagonist. A victim of prejudice and loss, Valeria is a bit insecure and unsure at the start of the story. She loves her family and Alik, grieves them deeply, and will do anything for them. I admire her determination and grit, as well as her loyalty and fighting spirit. I also love how much she grows throughout the story from unsure to confident, even if she can be a bit stubborn and dramatic at times.
I also really liked the setting, which is particularly vivid and descriptive. Cold, haunting, and atmospheric, the imagery and detail immersed me in the story. Valeria’s journey is not easy, and the time in the cursed mountain is particularly scary. Valeria and her fellow travelers encounter things that they are not prepared for, which was scary and harrowing.
I did find the pacing a bit unevenly paced, and it took me a few chapters to become invested in the story. A lot of information at the start of the story is a little too much tell and not enough show and feels like an info dump. However, as the story progresses, the pacing evens out, and I could see why so much information was revealed so early on.
This is an action-packed story that jumps between thriller and horror. Filled with great twists and turns, dynamic characters, and an immersive setting, the book will appeal to readers of YA fantasy. Thanks so much to NetGalley, Entangled Publishing, and the author for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
I think people who like young adult fantasy with fierce female protagonists, intriguing mystery, action, and a bit of romance will enjoy this novel.