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I’m not going to lie. I chose this book because of the beautiful cover and I am not even a little bit ashamed of that.

Synopsis

Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess-and not once has she doubted her chosen fate. Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command-whether she wants him or not. On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate-but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope… and hope is all she has left.

Plot

This novel has a very simple plot which is basically a search for an answer that Emi has which I can’t reveal without giving away a spoiler.
But for those of you who don’t mind a spoiler, please read on…

[spoiler]Emi learns that when Amaterasu descends she will destroy Emi. I told this to a friend and we were both pretty underwhelmed. Neither of us were surprised to learn this because I mean Amaterasu is a freaking GODDESS! Of course her power will be too great for Emi to contain! Also, having read Vessel, I just wasn’t surprised. The premise for Vessel is basically the same as this novel except that in Vessel the goddess fails to descend. [/spoiler]

Characters

Emi

Emi isn’t our typical bad ass heroine but she is no less interesting. In some ways she’s a bit more complex than the usual YA heroine. Emi is selfless and kind, patient and brave. At no point to I remember her being too stupid to live, although she was a bit too trusting of kami. But that was more due to her upbringing than anything else. She had been taught that kami were inherently good and yokai were inherently bad — [spoiler]to her detriment.[/spoiler]

Shiro

My favourite Shiro quote:

“Because you are more to me now. Because you keep secrets like a kami and I’m curious what you hide. Because you are lonely and scared and I don’t understand why. Because you trust me when you know you shouldn’t. Because I believe you when you say you will keep your word.”

Yumei

This guy is hardcore and utterly terrifying and I love him for it! He has definitley got the whole Blue and Orange Morality thing going for him. He just isn’t good or evil. He is there to help Shiro but at the same time he seems to want something in return. I must be the only one who wondered if Shiro and Yumei had some fling going on between them though. He was just so overly protective of Shiro, the kitsune, but he didn’t know him before the curse was placed on Shiro so maybe I’m just looking for some bisexual action where there isn’t any.

[spoiler] I had no problem with Yumei hurting Emi except for my usual problems with the main character being hurt because Yumei was never depicted as a love interest. [/spoiler]

I don’t understand the review I read where someone on GoodReads declared him her husband, but to each their own.

I am perfectly happy for Yumei to stay far, far away from me, though I do love him as a character.

[spoiler] What with him being the Tengu and ruling the other crows he is a bit like a mafia boss and I love that! [/spoiler]
Katsuo

My poor baby got stuck in a love triangle with our resident kistune. Personally I would choose Katsuo, because he is kind, loyal, and adorable. Plus he has no violent tendancies toward the main character.

Pacing

This was my main problem with this book. I started it in May and only finished it on the 13th of October 2017 because it was just so slow I just wanted something to happen at the beginning but I honestly don’t remember anything except for Emi finding the startling revelation in the manual. And I mean if you’re going to keep a secret from the kamigakari don’t leave it out in the open in the library where anyone can find it!

Final Thoughts

Red Winter was a good read and although there were some pacing problems, particularly at the beginning, I did enjoy myself. Emi was naive at the beginning and far too trusting of kami but she learned her lesson pretty quickly. Though nothing to do with the writing, I will say that the illustrations were very beautiful and that I enjoyed listening to the audio book.

I give this one THREE stars due to the pacing and boring Big Bad.

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

 

I’ve heard quite a few puns on the whole ruin and rising thing, so I’ll spare you all that. Actually, no. I won’t. This book ruined me and I’m not sure I’ll be able to rise from that.

I’ll tell you the truth, it wasn’t an awful book, but it did sorely disappoint me in a number or ways. Having said that, Ruin and Rising was very readable. The pacing was decent and there were certain things I actually hadn’t guessed at, such as the power of the amplifiers. The search for the firebird? I hadn’t seen that find coming.

So what was my biggest dissapointment? You guessed it. The Darkling. This is going to be really hard to explain without revealing spoilers but I will try.
I’m not exactly sure how many times the Darkling actually appears in R&R but someone mentioned that it was only 5 times. It felt much fewer. The point is, if you are going to market a character that much, at least let them appear more frequently. I understand that the allure of him was the mystery, and Bardugo could get away with that in the first book. By the second book it gets irritating. By the last book, it’s downright rude.
The Darkling deserved more character development. I wanted to truly understand what made him tick. Did he really love Alina? Did he think he ever could? Or was it all just a matter of possession and ownership for him? I don’t know. Instead the readers get saddled with Mal x Alina time.

I don’t have a lot against a childhood friendship turned into a relationship… provided that it is believable. Mal and Alina together was not believable. He spent the beginning of the first book flirting with other girls, and even that Grisha girl I can’t remember. And that’s okay. If he had no interest in Alina to begin with, but Bardugo led me to believe that Mal didn’t see Alina in that way.

And to be honest I don’t like Alina that much. But in this final book she did step it up a level. She had some seriously bad ass moments. My biggest regret for her was her ending. She had the chance to truly be someone and it was Mal I think who made her make that choice at the end and I didn’t like it. I think if she had made her decision because of more than just a boy I would have been okay with it.

It’s really hard writing this without spoiling the book.

The ending was gut-wrenching. I have to give it up to Bardugo, she managed to write a villain that everyone LOVED, even me. Yes, I know I just complained about the Darkling, but mostly because I don’t think we had enough time with him.

The fate of the Prince was also pretty good by the ending, but what he endured no one should have to endure. Other than the Darkling I have to say that the Prince is my favourite character, and Mal is my least favourite character.

Overall I think this was the weakest of the series, and but it was still nice to have an ending. I think I’ll be rereading this series again soon.

three-stars