My rating: 3.5/5 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.
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.
This book was my first journey into the Grishaverse and it was an intriguing introduction into the world.
The world building in this novel is something that needs to be highly commended. It was written very well and everything made complete sense which I think is so important in a fantasy novel. The descriptions were rich and brilliant; I truly felt like I could have been there. I loved the idea of the Grisha and thought it was executed within the novel fairly well but could have done with slightly more explanation, although there was a list at the start of my edition of the novel which did show the hierarchy.
Because the world building was so well done at the start, I felt that the plot was sacrificed. There was so much world building that the pace was very slow at the start and it really made me struggle with this novel. I think this is what initially put me off and from that I struggled with the first 200 pages because I felt like nothing of real substance was happening.
The last 100 pages of the novel really brought this novel back from the brink. All of a sudden the plot picked up and I started to love it. There was so much to take in from the last 100 pages as a lot had changed from the start of the novel and it has made me want to continue reading the trilogy. This may be a very personal opinion as I understand that this book as a lot of huge fans. I much prefer stand-alone books and I like this novel has highlighted why. I much prefer a faster paced novel and this novel very much felt like it was setting up for the next book in the trilogy.
I liked the characters that were created in this universe and yet I loved the supporting characters. Alina is a likeable character but I much preferred Genya and would have loved for her to be in the novel more. Genya felt like she had much more depth than Alina and it would have been great to know more about her. The Darkling was my favourite character in the novel. He was the character that had the most development and was such a complex character that I really enjoyed reading about him. I feel that Leigh Bardugo did not do Mal enough justice and I think it would have been great if he had more development as I assume he will be a big part of the second novel.
Overall I can’t say I loved this book, I just don’t think the pace was for me as the start was just far too slow. I will still be reading the second novel, Siege and Storm as I’m hoping that’s where a lot of the action will be. I am still intrigued by the Grishaverse and as I have heard better things about Six of Crows I hope to read that soon.
I have a feeling that this trilogy will make a great TV series as the settings in the novel sounded stunning. I just hope I am not disappointed.
Do you have a suggestion for the next book to add to my bookshelf? Let me know in comments.
I read this book so long ago I barely remember it, but I agree about the first book in a series usually being the most weak. I absolutely hate world building, but I often pick books with lots of world building because it’s usually worth it!
I think Leigh Bardugo’s other series (starting with Six of Crows) was much faster paced in the beginning. It’s a duology, and I liked it more than her trilogy.
Great review, Alice! I also gave this 3.5 stars. The world building is good and I loved the setting of the Little Palace. Mal is really underdeveloped, but I agree with you about Genya! I really connected with her character 🙂