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BOOK REVIEW: Lightlark (Lightlark #1) by Alex Aster

"Power is in the island's blood and bones...Lightlark lengthens our lives, gives us access to a power much greater than our own. And more than that, to many... Lightlark is home."

It has been way too long since we have done a joint book review together on here, and since we just finished Lightlark (Lightlark #1) by Alex Aster for our book club, we thought it would be fun to write this review together! For the most part, we have very similar reading interests (though Chelsea broadens her reading way more than I do :) ), and if we read the same book, we have pretty similar thoughts on the book. Well this time is no different!!

Often times when we get together to discuss the book we are reading, we talk about the book some, and then get into many other topics of conversation. When we met halfway through reading this book, we all discussed so many thoughts, theories, and predictions, we just couldn't stop! And of course we had to get a few texts in as we were all reading it, even though we had to be sneaky because we were all at different parts reading the second half!

The plot summary for Lightlark gives major Hunger Games vibes but with a dark, twisted, fantastical take. Lightlark is full of adventure, mystery, secrets, competition, and imminent death should the competitors fail. It has everything that we look for in a book - a badass heroine who grows even more confident throughout the story, a brooding hero (or two) that are protective yet full of secrets, and plot twists that you did and didn't see coming. What is Lightlark about you might ask? This story is about the island of Lightlark, which is composed of six realms - the Wildings, the Starlings, the Sunlings, the Moonlings, the Skylings, and the Nightshades. Five hundred years ago, the realms were each uniquely cursed, their realms' strength becoming their deadly weakness. Now, the island is trapped in a forever storm and travelling to and from the island can only take place during the Centennial.

The Centennial is a deadly game where the rulers of each of the six realms are invited to play to break the curse, occurring every one hundred years. The invitation is a chance at victory, at unimaginable power, and a chance to break the curses that have been plaguing the realms for centuries. This Centennial feels momentous - each ruler has something to hide, the island is crumbling and dying as the game is in play, and the ultimate price to break the curse? One of the rulers must die. Isla Crown is the ruler of the Wildings, and one of the youngest rulers of the realm. The Wildlings land is slowly dying, and it is up to Isla to break the curse and end the suffering for her people. But to break the curse, Isla must lie, must cheat the game as much as she can, and betray allies in the game. Can she do it? Or will love complicate everything?

Now, first off, the blurb gives the impression that this story is going to be super action packed from the get-go. We did not feel this way. The story definitely was a slow starter for us, and trying to figure out who belongs to what realm, what each realm's curse is, as well as their power, took a little while to get straight, but once things did start picking up, we were hooked and events definitely started happening at a faster pace. That's not to say the first part wasn't interesting though. It definitely was, but there was a good bit of background needed to make those faster paced parts even juicier.

Something we definitely loved were all of the plot twists! As we mentioned, we met halfway through reading this book and started coming up with theories of what we thought was going to happen. Will Isla find a way to break the curse? Is Celeste, the Starling ruler, truly her friend and ally or her enemy? Why is Cleo, the Moonling ruler, so secretive and building an army on her Moonling lands? Why does Grim and Isla have such a connection? Why is this the year that it's break the curse or the island dies? Why does Isla not have any Wildling power? We had so many theories and are happy to share them with you individually so we don't give anything away! But let us just say, we were partly right with our theories, although it was bits and pieces of all our theories put together rather than one whole theory.

There are a lot of characters throughout the story and trying to decipher who will be important in the overall grand scheme of things was nerve-wracking and exciting. Each character was fascinating in the sense of trying to figure out what their plans are, what strategy they are working off of, and who they can truly trust and work with. It's even more exciting the further into the book you get and more and more details are shared and more secrets come to light.

As for the romance in the story! We truly did not know who Isla was leaning towards. Right off the bat, Isla and Grim, the Nightshade ruler, have this connection. Though she knows how dangerous and unliked Grim is, she continues to run into him, and he is always around when Isla needs a little help. Why?? Is it part of his strategy to break the curse? Does he even care about the curse since this is the first time he has ever participated in the Centennial? Or is there a reason why now, after all these years, he is on the island? Grim and Isla have an easy camaraderie. an easy banter right off the bat, and the tension rises with each interaction. Then right when Isla feels she can rely on Grim, he disappears, and she is partnered with Oro, the King of Lightlark and Sunling ruler. Isla has trouble trusting Oro, and even though they are working together, continuously lies to him.

And speaking of Oro, he had us all over the place. Is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy? His actions are confusing and really could sway you either way! Plus, what are his secrets? And what do the little comments he makes about the others mean? He really just caused us to ask even more questions! Was he being truthful to Isla, and truly wanting to work with her? And then his announcement to all of the rulers had us shocked right along with Isla! And Oro's part in the end does seem to come about a bit abruptly, and that's all we'll say on that matter....

We know this is supposed be a duology, and we can't wait for the next book to come out. Where is the story going to go from here? Will we get more about the current characters? Will there be a time jump? There are so many ways the second book could go, and luckily, if Goodreads is correct, we only have to wait until January to find out!

Now that we've finished Lightlark, we need to find a new book to read for our club! Do you have any good recommendations we can read in our book club? We are always looking for new reads and suggestions for books that we love, especially if it is outside of our usual and go-to genres!

If you’d like to see what we are reading now, check out our Goodreads profiles (Kelli and Chelsea) or follow 2 Girls Bookin' It on Instagram and Facebook! If you’re excited to see what other topics we’ll be covering in the coming months, make sure to subscribe. Thanks for reading with us!

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