Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Genre: YA, fantasy
First published: 2014
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Synopsis: The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite – the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
I can see why people love this series. It is really good, has a really cool world and magic system. It’s very Russian, which stands out among the plethora of Western European Middle Ages setting that a lot of fantasies have. I read this after reading Six of Crows and I have to say that it can’t compare. Which is reasonable, since SoC was written further along in the author’s career and she’s had time to grow as an author. However, I tend to rate books on a curve if I’ve read other books by an author, I have certain expectations. Which is why this book in all honesty was probably a 3 star book for me. I decided to give it 3.5 because had I read it before SoC, I probably would have been more impressed with it.
Still, this was by all means a very enjoyable read. I had some problems with it, namely the love triangle. I really do not like that trope and it’s very rare that I actually like a love triangle. So I didn’t really like that. I didn’t think that Alina and The Darkling had much chemistry and I thought Alina and Mal had even less chemistry. So yeah… wasn’t a fan of the romance. But I do think Alina and Mal makes more sense at least at this point in the story.
While I didn’t think The Darkling was very compelling as a love interest, I did really enjoy him as a character. He’s one of those amoral/morally ambiguous characters that are right up my alley and I really look forward to learning more about him. I think it’s safe to say he was one of my favourite things about the book.
My other favourite thing about the book was that it was so Russian. I really enjoyed that aspect of it, it felt authentic and refreshing. The magic system is also a very interesting one, and while I was somewhat acquainted to it from SoC, it was not the main focus in that series and I loved learning more about it.
I would say that the plot was fairly predictable. It didn’t really take me by surprise. It had some cool elements of folklore that I enjoyed, but other than that, it didn’t really feel new. In fact, I often got a strong sense of having read this before. And I’m not sure whether it’s because I actually have read this before or just because the plot had some very common elements. I may have read this ages ago, when I read a lot of ebooks, and not remember.
The characters, once again, were not bad or underdeveloped, they were just not incredibly unique. Other than The Darkling, I didn’t feel particularly intrigued by any of them, but I also didn’t hate them. They were solid characters, but again, after the amazing characters of Six of Crows, these just felt bland.
Over all, I would say this was a very enjoyable, quick read. I do intend to continue with the series. I really love the world and I am curious about the plot as well, as I do feel the ending left a lot of potential for a super cool plot in the next two ones.