- Page Count: 358
- Release Date: June 5, 2012
- My Rating: 5 stars
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.
Ok, I’m going to finally try to explain my UNDYING LOVE FOR THIS AMAZING WORLD… calmly. Yes.
This time last year I read a couple books each month, but didn’t really get too into anything. Then I picked this book up and… was done with the trilogy in 2 days. This series made me love YA fantasy & start book blogging, so it will always be a favorite! I did go into this story knowing absolutely nothing, though, so maybe just ignore the hype and have fun.
I really like light fantasy books with creative worlds, magic, fast-moving stories I can get invested in, characters I can connect with, and fun plot twists. This book has everything. This series even uses YA tropes well instead of throwing them in as some kind of checklist. Everything worked!
I absolutely adore the characters in later books (NIKOLAI DESERVES A SERIES ok) but the best parts of the first book are the worldbuilding and The Darkling. Somehow this series made me sympathize with a mass murderer and actually want him to succeed? I’m usually not someone who obsesses over villains, either (and I am super reluctant to call him a villain). I was getting pretty tired of overly simplified “dark” characters, so I really appreciated how complex and REAL he ended up being. And I don’t get the complaints because pretty sure it’s not really meant to be a healthy relationship; it’s messy, raw, manipulative, and brilliantly done.
I just love how complicated everything got and how nobody is purely good or evil. No matter how creative fictional worlds get, I still want some basic realistic elements in the relationships. Even the most evil people truly believe they’re doing something positive/helpful, so it’s nice to see such vivid characters.
I also loved how Alina had a strong backstory and flaws. She doesn’t have the best attitude and makes some poor decisions, but it’s part of what made her relatable. (And those attributes had believable cause, rather than the her just being permanently hostile & cranky like many other “tough” MCs).
Mal was actually a totally lovable character, too! He was just in the unfortunate position of being contrasted with two extremely charismatic characters, so I kind of cared about him the least. I did like all of the characters, though — there’s such an awesome group of secondary characters as well!
But can we just talk about what an amazing writer Leigh Bardugo is?! The Grishaverse is seriously unlike anything I’ve ever found and I just love it SO MUCH. It’s a fantasy Russia-type world that feels like it’s been there forever and will totally continue doing its thing long after the book ends. I think the authenticity of the whole word is what really pulled me in. The magic has clearly defined rules & limits and is actually explained without an infodump. The story also managed to establish a strong sense of history, a class system, and culture in the amount of page time it would take other fantasy novels to describe the texture of a building. And I’m not saying one is better or worse… but I was definitely waaaaay more entertained by this approach.
Basically, the whole world is amazing. The characters are wonderful. The story is an emotional adventure full of plot twists and drama. AND NIKOLAI IS EVERYTHING.
See my Q&A with author Leigh Bardugo!