Say hello to one of my favorite trilogy of all times!
Shadow and Bone
I have to say that I was a little scared going into this because of all the mixed reviews, and I am so happy to say that this book worked out very well for me.
Since I read Six of Crows first, I spoiled the whole thing for myself, for now I know how the whole thing ends. But I'm not even mad about that. It was nice to see familiar names that were mentioned in Crows (Genya and Zoya).
I didn't expect it to be a single first person narrative, but I found myself enjoying that it was.
Alina's point of view was perfect for telling the story. An orphan who never felt as she belonged anywhere was basically thrown into a whole new world. The way she was trying to navigate that new world, grudgingly, was quite hilarious to read at times. I also thought that she had the perfect amount of a whiny teenager in her - she wasn't good at anything, but she tried; she whined and cried and complained, but in the end she always sucked it up and did what was asked of her. And she was blunt and sassy! So what if she acted vain when she got to enjoy a hot bath by herself, or when a beautiful silk dress was made for her. For an orphan and an army girl that can be completely pardoned.
I found the Grisha world to be absolutely fascinating, and I did feel that the book needed more explaining on how Grisha work their magic! But since this is a trilogy I am giving it a benefit of a doubt and hoping for more information from the next 2 books.
All of the Slavic cultural references warmed my soul. However I found it funny at times how some words (mostly Russian) were taken and turned into a different word for a ravkan language.
I heard some people say that the pace was slow, and the events were dull, but I didn't feel that way at all, so I guess it's all the matter of a perspective and preference.
For a moment there I was afraid that it was turning into an insta-love story, but no, thank goodness it didn't take that route.
The Darkling turned out to be a very fascinating character, his persona and his power were mystique and bad-ass. But as of this point I don't like him much - to me he seems like an ancient evil creature who likes to seduce young girls to get what he wants. BUT, I can tell that there is more to him, and that the human in him is still there (deep,deep,deep down) so I foresee some kind of redemption for him in my eyes.
Also that twist - pretty darn good, I was just as surprised as Alina herself.
If there were problems with this book, I didn't notice, for I was so entranced with the beautiful and witty writing. And I am also afraid at this point that Bardugo can do no wrong in my eyes, so my points of view on her books are becoming quite biased.
Siege and Storm
As much as I wanted to savor this one I flew through it in a day.
I can see this book being slow for readers who yearn non-stop action, as there is a lot of diplomatic dinners, meetings and riding from town to town. I have also imagined Alina to be more powerful (like way more powerful) at this point, but oh well.
While Alina is still not as likable as you wish her to be, one quality of hers shines brighter than the sun (see what I did there?). Selflessness. Alina's patriotism might be hidden deep within her, but in the moments that count, it pours out of her like an unstoppable ocean. She would rather die than see other people suffer. She would rather suffer alone than bind anybody to her side. I also really enjoyed the internal struggle that Alina is going through.
Mal, on the other hand, is a complete dingus! Rarely I see a character go downhill so fast. Mal has become childish and jealous to the point that it makes him insufferable. And just as Alina is completely selfless, Mal has become as selfish as it can be. However, I see his points of view, and understand his hurting. But it's not nearly enough for him to be even a little redeemed in my eyes. I spent half a book wishing somebody would just punch him in the face.
There is not a lot of Darkling in this book, but when he is present he is badass, he is scary, and he is as perfect of a villain as it gets.
Nikolai. Who needs Mal when you have Nikolai? I know there are a lot of people who are team-Darkling, and people who are team-Mal. While I find Darkling to be absolutely fascinating, and a fantastic villain I never felt that strong Darkling pull. And Mal, well you know how I feel about Mal. But Nikolai? Yes, please! Probably the greatest character in the whole series, so far. Yes, I am just going to leave it at that.
I really wish there was more of Genya in this book, I missed her.
Ruin and Rising
What a relief it is when a trilogy stays amazing till the very end (way too often the third book of trilogies just sucks). Not this one! I have to be honest though, I was ready to love it no matter what.
Did I expected it to end this way? Absolutely not! Remember in the Shadow and Bone I said that I spoiled Grisha ending for myself by reading Six of Crows first? Well I was wrong. I was so totally surprised. Bravo Bardugo, bravo!
I really enjoyed having more of Genya and Zoya, and the whole gang together. The way they worked together reminded me of Six of Crows. I adored Genya from the start, and Zoya's complains and grumbling made it fun.
"Not at all" said Genya soothingly."You're the prettiest walrus I know. I'm just amazed you haven't sawed through your lower lip."
"Keep your hands off me, Tailor, "Zoya grumbled, "or I'll poke your other eye out."
The scene where Genya stood up to the king, and Nikola's justice at that situation was amazing!
David's perfectly placed response of (I know I am taking it out of contest, but that scene was amazing!)
"I love metal"
Nikolai. All of him. Probably one of the most perfect male characters ever written.
Verdict? I would highly recommend this to a lover of fantasies, especially ones that have slavic references in them. And if you don't like fantasy, try it anyway, maybe you will after this.
Spoilers ahead, proceed only if you read the books already.
I was not a big fan of Mal in the first book, in the second book I really, really disliked him (that is expressing it mildly) and in the third book he wasn't so insufferable after all. I mean he was for about half a book, but then he changed. What was selfishness in the second book came out as desperation in the third one. Arrogance turned into helplessness, and then his helplessness turned into his sacrifice.
Why did I think that Alina and Mal ending up together was a perfect ending? Because Alina loved Mal ever since they were small children. Because they were best of friends. Because Alina never wanted to be a Saint, or the most powerful grisha. She just wanted things to be normal. Because both of them only had each other. I believe that was the reason why Mal was so horrid in book 2. His only anchor in life was ripped away from him (even if he totally took Alina for granted when they were younger).
Nikolai was her friend. I was so extremely happy that he didn't become another one of her love interests. That would have just been too mainstream. I enjoyed their friendship so much. He didn't love her romantically nor did she love him, although as Nikolai said they might have grown to with time, if given a chance. Nikolai's true love was Ravka, and he would probably marry a horse, or a toad, if it meant giving Ravka and his people, peace.
Darkling didn't love Alina and Alina didn't love Darkling. It was so plain to see when Alina lost her power and he was devastated and angry at her, because she became just normal, completely useless to him. Yes they were darkness and light, and yes they would have been perfect in the sense of completing each other, but it wouldn't have made sense. He seduced and used her. He hurt her. He killed people she loved. He used her power and her mind to his schemes. If they were to end up together, I would have thrown the book against the wall because that would have been abuse, not love. And I resent that in books.
Freelance BETA reader.