Cover of The Bright and the Pale, featuring an imposing black mountain looping over a frozen city

About the Book

Title: The Bright & the Pale (The Bright & the Pale #1)
Published: 2021
Series: The Bright and the Pale
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Bundle Up
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Compelling Mythological Mythos
Bonus Factor: Found Family
Relationship Status: Up for a Second Date

Cover Story: Bundle Up

This cover makes me feel very cold. Which I don’t love, because I’m not a big fan of being cold. But I do think this is a really great example of using the title of the book as art elements. (And the author’s name! I really love the small O in her last name. (I am a type nerd.)) And the colors are really lovely; they remind me of a space print, which y’all know I dig. My only true complaint is that the mountains are much more detailed than the homes in the foreground, which divides the cover in a way that’s somewhat distracting. But I’ve probably just spent too much time staring at this.

The Deal:

Ten years ago, Valeria watched as her entire village froze in a strange curse that has since seen her people imprisoned and blamed for every ill to befall their country. Thanks to the head of the Thieves Guild, however, she’s been kept out of prison and has learned a useful trade. And until a year ago, she was happy with her life—a year ago is when her partner, Alik, was murdered.

Valeria pulled herself back together after the loss but still feels like something is missing. So when a man comes to her with a dangerous quest, promising her a reward of seeing Alik again, she jumps at the chance. Even if the elements of the quest might mean that none of them make it back alive.

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

I liked Valeria well enough—even if every time I read her name I was reminded of this terrible movie—but we never quite connected on the level I would have liked. She’s a driven and passionate individual, and quite skilled as a thief, which I’m sure would be useful to have in a friend. But she’s also stuck, haunted by not only the grief of losing her village but also the pain of losing Alik. She’s become a shell of herself, and even after—spoiler alert—reconnecting with Alik, she’s still closed off. I can’t say I blame her, as these events would likely break me, too, but the qualities don’t exactly make for a good friendship. (And I come with enough of my own baggage that she probably wouldn’t want to deal with, either.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

When Alik “died,” they were just really good friends. But during her grieving, Valeria realized how deep her feelings actually went. She was pretty sure that Alik only saw her as a friend, and when they meet back up, she tries to hide her feelings so as to not make him uncomfortable. (Teenagers are so silly.)

When they do talk about their feelings, things get clearer. But the swoon never really takes off, and it’s hampered further by the quest. There’s promise there, though!

Talky Talk: Compelling Mythological Mythos

It took me a bit to get into Valeria’s story—I wanted to know more about her life in the Thieves Guild rather than the quest at first—but soon found myself getting caught up in the magical system Rubinkowski created for the book. It’s not entirely unique, but a good mythology system, especially one that is seemingly very black and white but actually much more complicated, is always fun to read about. (And the whole light brother vs. dark brother was reminiscent of Thor/Loki and Zeus/Hades*, which I was all in for.)

*Specifically the one from Lore Olympus.

Bonus Factor: Found Family

Characters Jen Jack and Grams from Dawson's Creek standing together

When Valeria first joins the quest, she’s unsure about everyone else who’s a part of it. But they eventually learn to work together. They don’t quite reach the high levels of found family found elsewhere in YA, but they’re a good team. (And I always love this trope when it pops up.)

Relationship Status: Up for a Second Date

We didn’t connect as deeply as I would have liked, Book, but I found you intriguing enough to say yes to a second date. If you feel the same, let’s make it happen.

Literary Matchmaking

There Will Come a Darkness (The Age of Darkness #1)

Katy Rose Pool’s Age of Darkness series also features a unique and intriguing mythology.

Bone Crier’s Moon (Bone Grace #1)

As does Kathryn Purdie’s Bone Crier’s Moon.

The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1)

And if you’re looking for more fantastical found family goodness/complications, check out Margaret Owen’s Merciful Crow duology.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Quill Tree Books, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Bright & the Pale is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.