4.5 Shining Stars. This is a spoiler free review.
Where do I even begin? I've heard nothing but great things about this book since I first came back to Goodreads, and even before that I'd wanted to get my hands on it every time I walked into the bookstore, but why did I wait? I guess it was for a couple of reasons, but when I finally found a copy at my local library, I knew that was going to be the first book I read.
And yet somehow it became the last from the six or so books I picked up.
It's taken me an entire month to read this book because I've been savouring it. When I started it at the beginning of the month, I'll admit it was really hard for me to get into it. I haven't read Leigh's Grisha trilogy, so this was all very new to me and also very hard to initially follow along, but I will say the map in the book helped ground everything, and then the rest of the vocabulary was easily picked up along the way. Maybe that's why it took me so long to push further into the book, but it was initially a slow start. The only other thing that threw me off was the very first chapter of the book. I know that it was important to the storyline and I appreciated it once I got further into the novel itself, but when I first read it and then hit the second chapter and everything was different, it made me a little bit confused as to whether or not I might have missed something I would've easily known if I'd read the Grisha trilogy first.
Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you exactly why I love this book to death.
First and foremost, it's the characters. The uniqueness of the characters' personalities, the diversity of their backgrounds and history, their determination and motives to break into the Ice Court; everything about them kept me coming back for more. From the very first time that we meet Inej, I knew that she was going to be one of my absolute favourite characters, and that was only confirmed with every page I turned. Honestly, I could spend hours raving about how much I fell in love with every single one of these characters, from Kaz's bold attitude to Jesper's sassy remarks and Nina's absolute heroic personality and Matthias's change in thinking and Wylan's surprising dedication... They all mean so much to me, and I found myself wanting to reach into the pages and protect them with all my might and fight alongside them. They're so dynamic and three-dimensional that I really felt that I was being introduced to a handful of people with rich life stories rather than being shown characters that exist to serve as a plot device.
Speaking of the plot, it's phenomenal. Let me just tell you that. Straight off the bat, we're thrown into a gang war which left me on edge as Kaz outsmarted his enemy without a care in the world, and that sold me immediately. I knew that this was going to be big in terms of the uniqueness of the plot and the way that it'd be accomplished, but I had no idea that I was going to step into an absolute page turner that had me hanging on with baited breath, hoping that no one was going to die and everyone would live happily ever after and rich beyond their wildest dreams. The best thing too is that the characters' backstories drove the plot. Sometimes the transitions between past and present were a little bit confusing, but they all had a reason to change the way that they did, and as the book progressed you slowly learn more and more about the characters in the same way that you would if you were meeting someone new.
Honestly, I could go on and on and on about how much I absolutely loved this book. The ending had me desperate for more, because I need to know what happens immediately! There's so many questions I have to have answered! Overall, if you're looking for a great fantasy novel with a life of crime and some awesome teenagers, this one's for you, and if it's not, you're truly missing out.