It’s been a while since my last post, not because I didn’t read any books, but because there were a few books I read that I didn’t finish because I really didn’t like them. But I won’t write a post about these books, because I rather write about books that I loved ;). Luckily, after a few misses I hit the jackpot! There’s only one word that describes my feelings for the trilogy that blew me away. Wow! Just wow. I just finished reading the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and I’m in awe. These books were so, so good! They’ve got everything I love: strong and well-developed characters, suspense, love, magic, great worldbuilding, and an antagonist who’s got so many dimensions that he will keep surprising you (sometimes in the worst ways). Today I will be reviewing the first book in the series called Shadow and Bone and tomorrow and the day after that I will review the other books. Let me first give you a description and then I will convince you why you absolutely have to read this trilogy (if you haven’t already!)
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Lets start with main character Alina. She’s such a great heroine. All her life she has felt invisible. The only joy in her life has been her best friend Mal who has been with her since they were little kids in the orphanage. But now Mal has loads of friends and girls chasing after him, leaving Alina feeling lonely and neglected. For years she’s been hiding the fact that she has a major crush on Mal, but lately it’s been extremely hard to keep those feelings secret. Especially when girls that are far more pretty than her are vying for his attention.
Life for Alina changes in one fateful moment. Alina, Mal and the rest of their regiment are tasked with a mission to protect a skiff that is about to set out over the Fold, a barren wasteland filled with darkness and human eating monsters that was created by a magical experiment gone wrong. The only way to cross the Fold is by illuminating the way as the monsters can’t stand the light. The mission soon goes terribly wrong as the skiff is plunged in darkness. When Alina sees Mal getting grabbed by one of the Volcra something inside her breaks free and a blinding light emerges from her body. The Volcra retreat and the skiff returns to port, where Alina is taken to the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha (humans with magical abilities). Because of her extraordinary talent she is whisked away by the Darkling to the Little Palace, the place where all Grisha are trained. Once there she discovers that she’s stronger than she ever thought.
At the Little Palace Alina not only learns how to use her abilities as Sun Summoner, but she also learns to fight, to depend on herself and her own strengths. In short she discovers her selfworth and the person she is without Mal. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him in her life or that she doesn’t miss him, but all this time she has looked up to Mal and let him take the lead and now she has to deal with all the things that life throws at her without him.
Mal is also a great character. At the start you feel as though he is a bit of an arrogant jerk. As if looks and girls are all he cares about and that he takes Alina for granted. However, later on the reader gets to know the real Mal. A boy who excells at tracking, who cares deeply for his best friend and who will stop at nothing to keep Alina safe.
Mal and Alina are by no means the only two great characters in this book. The Darkling is an awesome character balancing between good and evil and who will keep you guessing the entire trilogy if he can be redeemed. He’s got so many dimensions that I’m still trying to figure out what I think of him. On the one hand he’s kind, lonely and intuitive. On the other hand he is terrible, cruel and willing to kill for what he wants. Another cool character is Genya. A Grisha girl who is treated as an outcast among her peers because of her talent to alter peoples looks and the way the king uses her as nothing more than a whore. Alina and Genya soon become best friends because they are both different than the other Grisha. But, is their friendship real or does Genya have an ulterior motive for befriending Alina?
The worldbuilding in this trilogy is awesome! The author has used parts of Russian history (especially that of the tsar period) to create a unique fantasy world where multiple countries are at war with each other. Ravka is the country where Alina lives and where the Grisha are part of the armed forces. Added to this well-developed worldbuilding is a very cool system of magic and magic users that’s explained in this picture 🙂
How cool is that? This system of magic is so well thought out and logical, making it utterly believable.
I absolutely loved the romance in this book. This was one of the only books where I didn’t mind the love triangle. The feelings between Alina and Mal were not evenly balanced at the start of the story making the fact that Alina was hurt and looking for someone to love her realistic and logical. The feelings between Alina and the Darkling seemed real and sincere in the beginning but soon you start to wonder if the Darkling has other reasons to seduce her. Therefore, when Mal returns and saves Alina and confesses that he does love her and that he didn’t notice this until she disappeared, it doesn’t come across as a cheap trick to create tension like in so many other YA books. The funny thing was that I loved both guys just as much, and didn’t have a preference for one or the other (at least not in this first book haha).
Everybody who loves fantasy, well-developed characters, an antagonist who balances between good and evil, awesome worldbuilding and a unique use of magic based in science should definitely read this one!