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.
PLOT: Okay, the first time I picked up this book, I put it down almost immediately. A few months ago, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for it. This time, with some helpful prodding from Brianna Shrum (who is excellent) I enjoyed it much more. I think this is the only love triangle that I’ve been on board with, and I’m actually excited to read more- I’m feeling the Darkling love SO MUCH and despite that, I love Mal, too. The plot is kind of weird and was a little slow at first, which may have contributed to my lack of enthusiasm. This time, however, I pushed through, and I didn’t regret it. I enjoyed the pacing, although the ending seemed a little bit off and I wish I had been more invested in it. I will definitely be finishing the series, though, because I think this could turn out being a really great series (and I would like to have these three under my belt before I start Six of Crows so I’m familiar with the universe).
CHARACTERS: Point number one, and perhaps the most important point, is that the way Bardugo wrote the Darkling is 100% perfection. You never know whether he is hero of villain (okay, you pretty much know, but you don’t care) his motives are vague, his morality is entirely questionable and you just. don’t. care. I understand now why many, many people choose the Darkling as their #1 book boyfriend- although he isn’t mine (yet) he’s climbing right up the list with those quartz eyes. However, it’ll be tough to beat the Caliph of Khorasan- Khalid’s tiger eyes and also vague morality are well established in my heart.
The reason I didn’t give this book five stars is Alina, our heroine. Although by the end of the book she had changed and had become something different- someone better- for much of the book I skimmed her thoughts unless they had to do with the Darkling. Her inferiority complex is something I just couldn’t understand, and couldn’t enjoy reading. I would have preferred if she came into her own sooner, and we got to see more of her powerful side. As it was, each change was sudden, abrupt, and almost a little bit confusing when it came to the final pages of the book. I do look forward to seeing where Bardugo goes with this character, though, because I think she could be pretty great once she gets used to being powerful.
Mal was a great character, and I do love him- he’s my kind of guy, and in any other book, I would adore him. But in this book, he’s competing with the Darkling, and that’s pretty much impossible. I understand this love triangle, though, because there’s an impossible pull toward the Darkling, and to me he’s just a fictional character. To Alina, he’s flesh and blood and smoking hot. So I totally get this LT, even though it hurts.
In all honesty, Genya the Tailor was my favorite character. Much like Despina from The Wrath and the Dawn, Genya is the servant who is much more, with a plucky determination, beauty, and flair all her own. I loved her flash and the way she acted- and I truly hope I see her in future books.
OVERALL: I’ll give this four stars, because Alina was so frustrating and the ending seemed a little bit rushed to me. But I did love many aspects of this book, and can’t wait to see more.
WHAT TO WATCH:
There are some pretty heated kiss scenes, but nothing too untoward happens. There are some hints to what the king does to servants he finds attractive, but nothing is detailed and the reader is left to draw conclusions on their own. They drink something called kvas, which seems to be some sort of alcohol, but no one is getting obviously drunk or acting crazy. Violence is the only issue- there are some scenes that are a little gory, and I wouldn’t want younger readers exposed to descriptions of the volcra, monsters in the Fold. I do wonder, though, what causes the Grisha’s powers- it never really tells you whether it’s just elemental or genetic mutation or if it’s magic. That’s something I’ll have to keep a lookout for.