So I’m finally catching up with the rest of the world. I got fed up rereading the same books (even though I have loads of books in my TBR pile. I’m sure you can all relate…) and started The Grisha trilogy. Honestly, I was a little sceptical. I’m a part of a few pages on Facebook and there was so much hype around these books that was afraid to be disappointed if I started. But, the series was on sale on the Kindle store and I think I got the three books for around £7 so I can’t really complain. I started Shadow and Bone and I finished it by lunchtime the following day. I couldn’t put it down. I really, really enjoyed the first book. (I also just got these beautiful copies in my most recent book haul. I’m in love).
Have you read the Poison Study series? I was getting serious Poison Study vibes from this book which isn’t a bad thing (thank you, Beth, for introducing me to that gem). Honestly, I would recommend the Poison Study series for those of you that enjoyed the Shadow and Bone series. You’ll thank me later. The Grishaverse is also recommended for those who love the work of Sarah J. Maas.
Shadow and Bone starts with Alina Starkov and Mal as refugee children in the orphanage as when the Grisha examiners come to test them for the small science. You see the first glimpse into the Grisha and the disdain held by the common folk towards them. It is interesting to see such a divide, them and us between the common folk and the Grisha. You can’t help but wonder why such a tension exists. Then we jump forward in time to when Mal and Alina are older and are part of a military division and we are introduced to the Shadow Fold. The nation of Ravka is where the first book is set. Ravka is suppressed, torn in two by the Shadow Fold and surrounded by enemies at every turn. I would like to know more about the Fold, for sure. I think it is a really interesting concept and would like a lot more of the why and the how. Enter The Darkling. Dark, mysterious and brooding, The Darkling is the most powerful of the Grisha. He is Power. I kind of fell in love with his arrogance. During the time trying to cross the Fold as part of their mission, they are attacked by the creatures that prowl the darkness of the Fold. Here Alina’s powers manifest to protect her and Mal during the attack and she is then brought before The Darkling. Alina, terrified and confused about why she has been pulled before The Darkling, tries to tell them she isn’t anyone, that she isn’t anything, and that they definitely have the wrong person. But despite her claims of insignificance, she very quickly finds herself labelled as the saviour of Ravka, the one who will see the war-ravaged country and its people. Taken away from all that she knows, she is trained as one of the Grisha under the watch of The Darkling. The story twists quite spectacularly away from the outcome you think the story is heading for. Angst ensues.
Alina as a character kind of annoys me. As far as protagonists go she isn’t my favourite but she is realistic in the sense that you understand what she feels along with the how and the why behind those feelings. This is how you create a character because she pulls a strong reaction from us as the reader. Just because she is the protagonist doesn’t mean that you HAVE to like her. She isn’t beautiful which is refreshing because all the female characters in these kinds of books end up being pretty and desirable and she isn’t.
My problem with this series (if you can call it a problem) is that I really, really like The Darkling. Maybe this opinion will change as I get into the series but for now, I still like him a great deal and I am rooting for him probably a lot more than I should. I understand that he isn’t a good character but I feel like he has to redeem himself a little somewhere along the way and even if he doesn’t? I think I will be okay with it. Although I’m not entirely convinced he is completely the villain.
“The Darkling slumped back in his chair. “Fine,” he said with a weary shrug. “Make me your villain.”
He is a clever character, cunning and purely brilliant, playing all the players off of themselves until he has been ready to show his hand after so many years. I’m not saying that all of his… Methods are justified but sometimes it’s refreshing to see darkness prevail because there were a few moments when the outcome was looking pretty bleak. The Darkling takes the hope of a smothered, suppressed people and obliterates it. He uses the Sun Summoner to enforce his rule and honestly? It’s kind of beautiful. And who would challenge that? Who would be stupid enough to dare once they saw the destruction he was capable of. Think of the power of The Darkling and the Sun Summoner would have together. Talk about a power couple. Alina and The Darkling together would have made my life complete and there are so many moments that we think it might actually happen. It’s become such an intense relationship between them, passionate and vicious and I would have burned alive for the intensity of The Darklings focus.
“Then the memory of the Darkling’s kiss blew through me and rattled my concentration, scattering my thoughts like leaves and making my heart swoop and dive like a bird borne aloft by uncertain currents.”
I felt like I may have to sit out the rest of the series because I was so annoyed about the final outcome with the Darkling but I’ve calmed down and am now willing to go on with the next book with more of an open mind (I was shipping it so hard that I went down with that ship, hook, line and sinker).
And then there is Mal. I do like his character although I feel like he has spent a long time taking Alina for granted, oblivious of her feelings for him and is shocked to find himself missing her in his life when she leaves with The Darkling.
“I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me why we don’t belong together,” he said fiercely.”
But he realises (in hindsight, of course) just how important she was to him, how much of a part of each other they both were, and it warms something in my heart. Two orphans, brought together by chance, fighting to for each other despite all odds. Mal does so much, nearly gets him killed on so many occasions for her, just as Alina was ripped from her life to protect him on their first crossing of the Shadow Fold.
However, regardless of my feelings for The Darkling and Alina, I loved this book and I’m kicking myself for not getting involved with the Grishaverse earlier. I am going to continue on with the rest of the series.
On a side note for those of you who enjoy audio books, the trilogy is available on audiobook. They are all read by Lauren Fortgang and they are very well done, with the fantastic pronunciation of all the words I wouldn’t even try to say out loud.
See you all for Siege and Storm. I can’t wait.
Until next time, guys.
Shadow and Bone
Siege and Storm
Ruin and Rising
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo