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  • Writer's pictureErin Phillips

Book Review: The Bright & the Pale

The Bright & the Pale is the first part of a fantasy duology by debut author Jessica Rubinkowski. It was slated for release this year, but with everything going on in The Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty, the publication date was moved back to March 2nd, 2021. When I requested a review copy of The Bright and the Pale from NetGalley, I was not aware that it was part of a duology. In fact, I didn’t find that out until I was over halfway through the book. This saddens me, because THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING AND I NEED MORE NOW!!!

Valeria was orphaned at a young age, when some kind of magic encased every living person in the remote, mountain village of Ludminka in a cocoon of ice—everyone, that is, except her. Now, at seventeen, she is a member of the Thieves Guild, and she finds herself roped into a mission that will take her back to the very place she hoped never to return—to Ludminka. More specifically, to the mines deep inside the mountain that towered above the village, where stores of a precious metal called Lovite have been inaccessible for a decade, due to the freeze and a plague that followed it.

Her journey home is fraught with turmoil, especially because Valeria isn’t sure of her fellow thieves’ motivations in joining this particularly dangerous, if not deadly, quest. When they finally reach the mountain, they find more within than any of them, even Valeria, bargained for.

So, uh, yeah. I’m sorry that the above summary is so vague, but I really wanted to avoid spoilers, and some spoiler-tag-worthy things happen quite early in the story.

Onto the writing itself: At first I thought the book started off rather slowly, and even info-dumpy. However, as I read on, it turned out that all the ‘backstory’ that I thought could have been cut from the first couple of chapters truly was necessary for world-building, plot, and character development reasons. I do have to say, though, there is a Tolkien-esque amount of traveling which felt tedious at times. Luckily it wasn’t just straight-up traveling, and Rubinkowski included some exciting stuff mixed in. So basically, the writing was fine. Good. Great, even. The fact that I can only nit-pick little things that I thought were a tad annoying means that I found it very well-written, and I’m just being petty. >_<

Valeria is a very likable character, but there are also points in the book where I want to take her by the shoulders, shake her, and shout at her “(REDACTED DUE TO SPOILERS)!!!” She is stubborn and refuses to make herself vulnerable with anyone, due to fear of loss, (as well as the fact that she is from Zladonia, which technically makes her a political fugitive but I don’t have time to get into that here). But GIRL. You need to learn to trust. That’s all I’m going to say on that subject, because again...spoilers.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a fantastic debut novel, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on the second book in the duology.

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