I am so behind on book reviews! I read The Grisha Trilogy back in July/August and somehow let the reviews fall to the wayside. Making up for it now! Each review starts out with a non-spoiler section, which will be in bold. I’ll mark when spoilers start for each review!
“Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.” – via Goodreads
While this book was a fun read, it didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. The world building is excellent, which is something I always appreciate. I very much enjoyed learning about the Grisha, not only their powers, but also how they are viewed both from a world perspective and amongst one another. The main characters, both good guys and villains were captivating, and felt well rounded. Alina, the main protagonist, did suffer from a bit of “I’m not pretty/good enough to be the hero” syndrome, but it wasn’t too heavy handed. This book was a fun read. The world is well established and has interesting, dynamic characters. However, I wish some of the more major plot points had been a bit more thought out.
I liked Alina for the most part, and enjoyed watching her come into her own once she discovers her powers. The Darkling was quite an interesting character. His plot twist wasn’t entirely unexpected to me; while I wasn’t quite sure of the extent of his villainy, I never expected a character named “The Darkling” to be a good guy.
And while this book did have a bit of the (apparently essential) YA Love Triangle, I didn’t find it bothersome. Mainly because most of it seemed to be pretty logical. Alina had legitimate reasons to be romantically interested in both Mal and The Darkling, and they were very different reasons which I really liked. The romance aspect didn’t seem just thrown in for no reason; I felt it added depth and dimension to the characters.
My biggest problem with this book was there were many major plot points that felt very rushed and not well thought out. Mainly in terms of Alina, and her powers. She starts off being unable to summon her powers at will. She tries and tries and tries, but can’t ever summon. And the solution was apparently just try EXTRA! Ta-da! Her struggle with powers felt very contrived…the author needed her to struggle to make her interesting/sympathetic but when her powers were needed for plot points BOOM they magically (literally and figuratively) kicked in for no real reason. Plot points were ‘explained’ like this more than once in the book and it frustrated me.
I had a similar problem with The Darkling’s powers in that his just seemed extremely undefined. With most of the Grisha, who on the whole seemed very well thought out, their powers were clearly defined among each type and rank. But towards the end, the Darkling’s powers seem to be expanding and potentially limitless…for no real reason. Other than he’s the bad guy. But, why? Why can he suddenly develop these new crazy powers? Where did they come from?
“Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.” – via Goodreads
I enjoyed this book much more than Book 1! It felt more refined, more thought out, and was all around a better read. Plus, it introduced a fantastic character – Sturmhond. He was yet another character who was not what he seemed, and this time, I didn’t see his reveal coming which was great. He added a great depth to this story, and I really liked that! I also felt like Alina was a much stronger character in this book, which I appreciated. Overall, a great read. The characters all develop nicely, and the plot feels more put together in this book. Also, it had an ending I definitely did not expect, in a good way. It made me excited for Book 3!
Sturmhond/Nikolai was such a happy surprise in this book. His wit and smarts were a welcome addition, and the reveal of him as the Prince was something I did not expect and made him such a powerful ally. I quite enjoyed that he was always a bit of enigma to Alina…was she every seeing the ‘true’ him, or did he always presenting some form of front? They had a great dynamic.
Alina, however, made some pretty dumb choices in this book. Mainly, in the department of her relationship with Mal. Seriously when will people learn that keeping secrets in a relationship only leads to bad, hurtful things?! I wanted to clock her a few times and just scream GO TALK TO HIM through the pages.
On the other hand, I really appreciated her struggle with power. Once she gains the first amplifier and she realizes how necessary it is for her to summon, I loved watching her internal struggle between the craving of more power and strength while still trying to stay focused and grounded. It felt very real. Further adding to her internal struggles was being Grisha in general. It meant she would forever be separate from Mal in a way that he couldn’t relate to, and the Darkling could. Watching her deal with that fact, and also in some ways her enjoyment of that separation, was pretty intriguing.
Alina’s internal struggle with power made the ending that much more exciting for me. I was so pleased with her decision to attack the Darkling, even if it meant destroying herself. Seeing herself embrace her true strength, and even her ‘destiny’ as she believed, was excellent.
“Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives. ” – via Goodreads
As a conclusion, it was only alright. A huge portion of this book is just fine and an enjoyable read, hence the 3 stars. I didn’t mind that a lot of this book was a bit more low key. But much like Book 1, Ruin and Rising suffered from many contrived plot points. Things just conveniently happened to further the plot with little reason or explanation. Ugh. And then the ending came and made me even more upset. While not terrible to read, it doesn’t feel the ending Alina’s character deserved.
The more I think on it, the more annoyed I am with the ending of this book. Alina losing/giving up? her powers fucking baffles me. Like, WHY?! I mean, I get it, you love Mal. But to me, love means accepting each other the way you are, and were born. Mal, throughout this entire series, always seems at the very least uncomfortable and often times jealous of Alina’s Grisha powers as the Sun Summoner. And it’s obnoxious. It’s not like she chose to have these powers. Yes, it separates you two on a level you don’t like. Um, deal with it? I fully expected Mal to die in Book 3, tragically of course, saving Alina somehow, and she would go on to defeat the Darkling and rule alongside Nikolai.
Instead, Alina ends up powerless to live out her days with Mal. Now, I could accept this if throughout the series Alina had a distaste for her powers. If she resented them, or hated having them. But, as she mentions multiple times, Alina loves her summoning ability. He power makes her feel alive, complete. It is part of who she is through and through, and as she grows stronger, she only loves it more. SO WHAT THE FUCK. In what world is she ever going to be happy giving up a part of herself for someone else? That is not okay.
This story definitely suffered from the not-well-thought-out plot points problem. Again, much of it related to Alina’s powers. After the conclusion of Book 2, she is having trouble summoning, and then of course, right when they need it, she manages to get it working…just because, I guess? Much of her struggles felt very contrived, as they did in Book 1.
Also, why is Mal not dead? I still do not at all feel a legitimate explanation was provided for that. The author wanted them to end up together so boom, he came back to life. Right….
I don’t know, much of this book was good and enjoyable, but sadly it really fell apart towards the end.
OVERALL SERIES CONCLUSION + SPOILER FREE WRAP-UP:
Personally, I think you could skip The Grisha Trilogy and not be missing anything major. The books are enjoyable enough, but nothing I want to run screaming in the streets about. My advice? Get someone who has read them to explain a bit about the Grisha and the world, and then just read Six of Crows, also by Leigh Bardugo. It was excellent. I read it before reading this series, and I’m quite glad I did as it was soooo much better!
Have you read The Grisha Trilogy? What did you think?