Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Brilliance of Stars (Jack and Ivy #1) by J'nell Ciesielski


Washington DC, 1914. Ivy Olwen knows how to survive on the streets without two coins to rub together. But when she finds herself whisked into a secret society that seeks to maintain the balance of good and evil in the world, she can’t believe there’s more to life than just surviving. In the hallowed and historied halls of Talon, she learns European languages and ballroom dancing, as well as demolitions and sharpshooting—in short, everything a spy and assassin will need to survive in the field.

The first day Jack Vale meets Ivy, he knows she is not to be underestimated. The second day, he knows his heart will belong to no one else. Between sparring bouts and constellation gazing, Jack takes Ivy under his wing, and the two form a bond that soon turns to love.

While the rest of the world tumbles into war, the two embark on an official mission to take down a madman who has left a trail of blood and murder across Russia. Little do they know the unfathomable peril waiting in the wings of a chaotic Europe.

When Jack and Ivy are thrust into encounters each more terrifying than the last, Ivy must determine how far she will go to save the man she loves. Equal parts historical fiction and adventure novel, Ciesielski’s epic tale of espionage and romance will leave readers both enchanted and thrilled.

When I come across a book I want to review I usually scan the synopsis briefly to see if I am interested.  It's usually not something I commit to memory, especially if I am familiar with the author in some way.  Sometimes in the interim between agreeing to read the book and actually sitting down to read it, (which can be a couple months) I forget what the book is about.  This book really surprised me.  Caught me off guard.  I have read other books by this author and this book wasn't really like those.  It had a different feel to it that I wasn't expecting.  

There is a constant, pressing forward momentum in this story.  It's got a LOT packed into it's pages.  History, danger, intrigue and evil.  I loved the first half of the book as we learned about Ivy and Phillip, their backstories, how they came to be with the spy organization.  The growing friendship between the two and Jack was a good one.  How can you not sympathize with the plight of orphans?  Scrappy, brilliant orphans who finally find a place to belong.  Yeah, there was some tugging of the heartstrings.

I didn't fully get the romance between Jack and Ivy because it was certainly unconventional and a bit out of the scope of what I understand.  Fighting each other to blood one minute and kissing the next.  Yeah, I don't really get that but I surely did love Jack's complete devotion to Ivy, especially once he took the leap to tell her.  Once he was all in, he was ALL IN.  I love that kind of loyalty and devotion.

The second half of the book definitely grew in intensity.  It was a crazy whirlwind of places, people, intrigue and violence that just got crazier and crazier.  By the time I reached the end, I felt quite over done.  Overwhelmed.  The other aspect I was caught off guard about was the ending.  I didn't realize I would have a cliff hanger ending with some heavy foreshadowing of things to come.  I don't love cliffhangers.  I'm going with a 3.5/5 stars for this one.

This book releases November 1st.

Content:  violence, death, peril, kissing.  Fade to black intimate scene between a married couple.

- I received a complimentary copy of this book.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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