This is the first book I’ve read from the popular and widely loved author – Leigh Bardugo. So, I think in that respect, I was a blank slate and that might have some affect on my thoughts on this book.
This is Leigh Bardugo’s first foray in the adult fantasy genre and boy was it dark and spooky. I intend to read the Six of Crows duology by her next, and maybe then finish the Grishaverse trilogy, since I heard they’re adapting the books into Netflix series, and I love watching series based on beloved books. Yes, I’m reading backwards, but I really want to see if the YA books are equally dark with unapologetic gray characters, or if it was just this book. Maybe other fans of her previous work will be able to confirm that 🙂
Trigger warnings: Abuse, sexual abuse, rape, violence
The Goodreads summary of the book says:
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
I want to write and discuss in detail about this book and how it made me feel when I was reading it, but that would make this the longest blog in history. So I’m going to be objective and use my earlier style of writing down a list of what I liked and didn’t like about the book 🙂
What I really liked in this book:
- Favorite Character: Daniel Arlington aka Darlington!! He was my favorite character in the book, a breath of sunshine I guess in the overall darkness of the book. A gentleman with a past. I wanted to read much more about him, and so I’m going to read the next installment in the series just in the hopes that I’ll get more of him then 😉 Leigh Bardugo is a smart woman..hehe
- Backdrop setting of the story: I was completely taken in with the author’s description of the eight houses of the veil. There were some sections in the book which started with a brief introduction of the rules of a particular house and I really enjoyed reading those. I didn’t even know that all the eight houses (except for the fictional Ninth house of Lethe) are real houses in Yale that exist! At the end of the book, the author has even shared the names of few famous people who belonged to some of these houses. I was really impressed that I learned something new and that Leigh Bardugo was able to mystify these houses even more with this story
- The mood of the plot: Oh man, was I spooked! The first two days that I was reading the book, I actually felt scared staying up late to read, to switch off the lights and go to bed..haha. Some of the scenes with the grays/ghosts and some ceremonies were absolutely spooky and nothing short of watching something like The Nun scene in Conjuring maybe 😀
- The inclusion and tackling of subjects on substance and sexual abuse: I’ll come to the scenes later on in the things I didn’t like as much, but what I appreciated was, that the author managed to include subjects on substance abuse and sexual abuse and show the protagonist fight against injustice and come out of it like a survivor and like a warrior. There were some awesome kick-ass moments by Alex in certain cases and although my sensibilities made me want to gag in some of those scenes, I was applauding her by the end of it, for the way she didn’t just ‘let it go’ and gave it back as good to the perpetrators.
- Alex’s backstory and the build up to the present: I really enjoyed discovering Alex’s past and the conclusion of the incident that brought her to Lethe. It was an ‘Oh!’ moment for me when I found out the truth behind her story 🙂
Now, for the things I didn’t like as much:
- The plot, or the mystery element in the story: The overall story felt like a drag towards the second half of the book. There are three mysteries that Alex is trying to solve in this story – a kidnapping/disappearance, a current murder and a historic murder. They all tie up neatly in the end making way for the second book I guess, but it takes a really long time to get there, and I felt that we could have gotten there faster
- The fact that there was too much bleakness and violence in the story for someone like me. I know there are a lot of books that cover dark themes with dark protagonists, but I kept feeling things like, c’mon, give Alex a break already! Nothing happy or good happens to her for the most part of the book. So I was grateful for the scenes when supporting characters like Dawes and Detective Turner give her a break and become her allies
- There were too many villains in the story, I felt. Also, I had guessed two of them before we got to the end and the final twist. It just somehow felt that they will be connected and will come back. But the final twist for one of the villains was amazing, in hindsight. I wasn’t expecting that angle at all!
So, overall, I enjoyed the book and just as Stephen King has mentioned on the cover, its unputdownable. The book was huge, and yet I finished it in 3 days, with my schedule, so you can imagine how engrossed I was in the story. It was entertaining, brutal, bleak and very spooky. A good Halloween/Winter read I guess 😉