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  • ★★★-3.5

Review: The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo (Spoiler-Free)

I studied abroad in Spain and my favorite author wrote a book set in Madrid. This is my Roman Empire.

I've known about this book for over a year. I remember hearing whispers that Bardugo was writing a historical fantasy, and when I found out it was set in Spain I clutched my pearls. For my whole semester abroad, my friends and I raved about how excited we were for this book. And here we are now with it in my hands.

Since it's pre-pub, I'm not going to delve into spoiler territory or too much detail, but I want to say that I found this book most similar to Shadow & Bone out of all of her previous novels. It deals with oppression, the overtaking of empires, and questions of faith. The plot is also on the simpler side (much more like Shadow & Bone than Six of Crows), but it complements the narrative style.

The narration is third person and pretty distant, so it's harder to connect with the characters as fully as I have in her other works. That being said, each character has a satisfying arc and they each connect in clever ways. There is also a strong romance at the heart of this story, but it was also something I didn't really connect with. For romantasy readers who like brooding immortal insta-love, this pairing will definitely hit. But for me who prefers a slow burn, I found it lukewarm. (Darklina shippers will have a heyday.)

All that being said, the writing was gorgeous as always and I loved how much of a classic fairytale vibe was maintained throughout. It gets dark and gruesome, but leaves room for hope and humanity. This is a very important novel and I'm glad it will spread some awareness about the reality of the Spanish Inquisition to readers who are unfamiliar (pun not intended...).

And of course I drew a little heart on the page every time Granada showed up <3


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