Alina has never been separated from her best friend Mal. From the moment they were dropped into the orphanage to the moment of his near-death, they’ve stayed together. When Alina saves Mal in the Shadow Fold, an area of complete darkness cutting the nation Ravka in half, she’s whisked away by the Grisha, a group of “magical” elites. They tell Alina she is the person they’ve been waiting for. The one with powers that could mend their broken nation. Alina doesn’t want to be their savior, yet she continues to train at the palace with the Grisha. She really just wants to go back to the old days, where her and Mal had not a care in the world but each other….
I came into this book already loving the author because of a panel I saw her on at the Decatur Book Festival. I bought the book, finally read it a year after the panel, and eagerly awaited the next panel I’d see her on at the YALL Fest. I still love Leigh Bardugo, but I can’t say I love her book.
Guys, I try to like fantasy, I really do. But high fantasy with peculiar names and themes of light vs. dark and quests and man vs. nature conflicts just don’t do anything for me. And they’re all pretty much the same.
I liked this book. It’s a fast read, the characters are interesting, the writing style is captivating, but it’s not new. It didn’t stick with me.
The main theme concerns light vs. dark. Alina battles with inner problems of right and wrong on a personal level, but she also wonders if she should help the nation or not. The Darkling, the Grisha leader, has taken her under his wing, but her feelings on him are still hazy. Alina’s power (extreme lightness, which I don’t understand. What’s the good in shooting out beams of light?) directly opposes his dark powers, which, sorry if this is a spoiler, pretty much screams evil. Darkling? Come on! The reader follows Alina through her growth as a person and conflicting views of her plan of action. Should she take the selfish road out, or help the country? Is the Darkling the right Grisha to back up?
Bardugo transitions between scenes flawlessly, which sometimes gets confusing in fantasy books. She built a world that’s easy to understand (despite the weird Russian-esk names) and get lost in. Her characters and their problems have a contemporary feel, but the book still stays true to the main focus of saving the nation.
Plus, it has a map. I adore books with maps. It makes things so much easier.
It’s a series, and I’m not planning on reading the rest of them, but I’m not against it either. This is definitely a well-developed and riveting fantasy book with no clear problems in its world and interesting characters to ice the cake. I’m just biased against fantasy.