Reading Level: Young Adult
Size: 368 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Grisha Trilogy
Source: ARC through Amazon Vine
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
This is the first book in the Grisha Trilogy. I got an advanced reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program and was really looking forward to reading it. It was an excellent read; wonderful characters, a creative world, and interesting magic. The second book in the trilogy, Seige and Storm, is scheduled for a 2013 release and the third book, Ruin and Rising, is scheduled for a 2014 release.
Ravka is a nation torn in two by the Shadow Fold, an area of darkness full of viscous creatures. Alina is working in the army as a mapmaker and their ship is attacked on a journey through the Shadow Fold. When Alina saves the day with a power she didn’t know she had, she is whisked away to the Palace to be trained as a Grisha. The whole country is hoping Alina can defeat the Shadow Fold once and for all, but when nothing is as it seems how will Alina know what is right and wrong?
This was a great book. Bardugo does an excellent job of submersing the reader in a wonderful new world that is fascinating, yet somewhat dark and troubled. The descriptions are very well done and make the scenes easy to picture, the story really comes alive. It is fast-paced and engaging.
I love the idea of the Shadow Fold, a mass of dark creatures slowly devouring an area of the Kingdom. I love some of the twists and turns the story takes as we learn more and more about the Shadow Fold. This is a world I enjoy reading about and want to learn more about.
Alina was one of the weakest elements in this book for me. She comes off as overly naive for the first portion of the book. I find that hard to believe given that she hasn’t exactly lead a sheltered life; she was an orphan to start and then she’s been working in the Army. She seemed over-simplified and her naivete contrived. She does develop nicely as the book continues and towards the end of the book I was finally starting to enjoy her character a bit more.
The other leads are the two male characters. Mal is Alina’s childhood friend that she has a crush on. He is a great character and heartbreakingly human in both his mistakes and his triumphs. I really enjoyed reading about him and was a bit disappointed he was out of the story for such a large portion of the book.
The Darkling is the second male character and he is everything his name promises. He is the darkness to Alina’s light magic; he is old, he is powerful, he is sexy, he is dangerous, and mysterious. He is a wonderful character and you have to admire his confidence and his joy when he finds Alina and her Light magic. He is kind of my favorite character, I enjoyed his complexity.
If you are thinking…well great…another YA romance triangle…it’s really not like that. You’ll have to read it and see but that really isn’t the focus of this book and Alina doesn’t spend time agonizing between the two men.
Another thing I enjoyed was the Grisha culture and society and the magic system that went with it all. It made for a great fantasy and was incredibly interesting to read about.
The book ends at a good spot, but definitely has more that will need to be resolved in future books.
So even though I really enjoyed this book I couldn’t give it five stars. Although this is a good book, Alina is just a bit too simple, there is too much focus on how beautiful all the Grisha are, and the plot itself was a bit too predictable. It was like this book was almost completely wonderful but not quite.
Overall a very unique and engaging fantasy novel. There is a great world, an intriguing magic system, a fast paced plot, some excellent characters, and a little bit of romance too. I definitely recommend to fans of fantasy; especially YA fantasy. Older fantasy fans might find the whole plot a bit simple. I will definitely be reading the next book, Seige and Storm, when it releases.