Summary: Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.
Now Alina will enter the lavish world of royalty and intrigue, as she trains with the Grisha – her country’s magical elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.
As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of the nation.
Review: Amanda has talked about this book so much that I finally had to get it and I’m glad I did. This was a fun, suspenseful story with some really unique ideas.
First is the setting; Bardugo took initial inspiration from Russian culture then made her own world from there. I thought it was a really unique, well-described world. I could really see the places (that’s something I usually struggle with) and people and it was easy to understand the culture, the politics and even things like the “small sciences” (this world’s version of magic) made sense.
I liked Alina right from the start. She’s tough, smart, and even though she struggles to fit in she never gives up her values to do so. I thought she had some great character development throughout the book and I enjoyed seeing her stop fighting her magical side and finally grow into herself. She makes mistakes but owns up to them and does what she can to fix things afterward. I really admire her character and am excited to see where the story takes her in the next books.
I didn’t love Mal at first. He seemed like the generic guy in all YA who’s been best friends with the protagonist forever and is oblivious to her love for him until it’s too late. And he sort of fits that mold at the beginning but gets away from that when he comes back into the story later on. I ended up loving his character by the end.
The Darkling, I have mixed feelings about. Every other review I read, people talk about how much they love him but, while I appreciate him as I villain, I definitely don’t love him. I think my main problem is how the other characters didn’t know he was evil. I knew before I read the book because it’s all over the internet but it still seemed so obvious to me from the writing that he was not a good character. The fact that everyone continues to follow him, even after his actions at the end of the book, astounds me. Following someone out of fear is one thing but the fact that not a single person other than Alina and Mal was willing to fight back seemed completely unrealistic to me.
Otherwise I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was fast-paced and suspenseful enough to keep my attention and I loved the unique way Bardugo wrote about the magical aspects of the world. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the series goes. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes YA and fantasy. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments and thanks for reading.
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