Okay, so this has been on my TBR list ever since I heard about it and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve heard a ton of mixed reviews when it comes to this book so I was excited to see what my take on the story was. Leigh Bardugo is a generally new author to me, I haven’t read anything by her before, however, with the upcoming television show that’s airing on April 23rd (watch the trailer here), I couldn’t wait to launch into this series.
After Alina Starkov and her best friend, Mal, are attacked on the Shadow Fold – a near impenetrable darkness that is crawling with monsters, splitting a country in two – she reveals a power that she didn’t know existed inside of her. This power could be the key to saving the country and destroying the Shadow Fold once and for all.
Alina is whisked away to the royal court where she’s trained as a member of the Grisha, a race of people who use the “small science”, giving them powers. Favoured by the intimidating, but handsome Darkling, Alina is thrown into a web of secrets and lies surrounded by lavish parties and royalty.
Yet, nothing is as it seems. The entire kingdom is depending on Alina and the power that she only just discovered. Alina must confront her deepest fears and secrets to save the kingdom and free it’s people.
“Alina Starkov, the Sun Summoner.”
“They are orphans again, with no true home but each other and whatever life they can make together on the other side of the sea.”
Alina was such a cool character to follow. I really liked how she was straight to the point and I could understand everything she was saying and feeling. Her character was so easy to get behind and I found myself really relating to her as she went on her journey of discovering her powers. Speaking of her powers, how cool is it that she’s a Sun Summoner?! That’s such an amazing power and I feel like it somehow fits her personality. She isn’t a particularly bubbly or happy person, but she’s more like someone who gives life to those around her. She’s completely entranced anyone who meets her and while she seems ordinary, she’s far from it.
Mal was a character that I was worried I wasn’t going to like, but as the book went on, my love for him just grew. Starting off the book, he seemed like the perfect person for Alina because of their history together. I also love how close they were and while Alina felt like they were falling apart, their friendship was definitely strong. Continuing with the book, I didn’t see a lot of Mal but him not replying to Alina’s letters was definitely getting me down until he explained everything. In the last parts of the book I was obsessed with his character. His love for Alina was clear and his one goal was to protect her from everything and he was willing to go down for her which made me like him even more.
“The world was this step, this circle of lamplight, the two of us suspended in the dark.”
The Darkling. Where do I even start? I’m kind of very much in love with him. Starting out the book, he was the mysterious and brooding bad boy that all YA fantasy has. I was searching for something different about him. His power was certainly unique and something that set him apart from the rest of the world. His blackness was terrifying for me to read about but it was so intriguing to see it played with Alina’s light. Along with this, he seemed to be a character that Alina had turned soft, that is, until we see the betrayal that just had to shock me to my core. I knew he’d be a villain just because that’s who he is, it was clear from the moment I met him. His intimidating but handsome demeanor had me intrigued and hooked on his character from the beginning, but I still let myself be fooled by him and I have to say that him being a villain hasn’t made me like him any less. In fact, I probably love him even more. This badass villain side is so cool to see and I can’t stop wanting more, more, more from him. I’m also really excited to see where his relationship with Alina will go in the next book because the tension between them is definitely clear.
“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, Alina,” he said. “You and I are going to change the world.”
Genya is a character I’d really like to see more of. Her bubbly personality shadows the trauma that she’s endured with the King and Queens abuse, and she’s just a beautifully developed character that I think Alina really needed in her time at the Little Palace. She’s a character that I couldn’t get enough of and I think she deserves a lot more. I’m hoping she shows up in the next book and we get some more of Alina and Genya’s friendship.
Alright so I have to start by saying that the setting really confused me sometimes. I had to go back and read the passages mentioning the settings a few times because I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of the world that we were in. However, after a few times of referring back to the map at the front of the book and then rereading the passages explaining everything, I finally understood where exactly the book was taking place and where everything was surrounding it.
We started the book in Kribirsk where Alina and Mal were going to cross the Shadow Fold. The Shadow Fold was terrifying, I have to admit. It’s just so unnatural and it really unnerved me. Along with that, those creatures called the Volcra that were in the Shadow Fold were even more terrifying. I couldn’t stop reading because I was totally hooked and waiting to see what happened next but this setting totally scared me out of my mind.
After that, we travelled to the Little Palace which I believe was in Os Alta. This palace seemed like your ordinary royal palace that you’d see in any royalty young adult fiction so I wasn’t super excited with it, but I was happy to see the luxuries that Alina was given while she was staying there.
Alina then travelled to different parts on the map in Ravka. These settings were super quick to go by and I didn’t get much information for them, but they seemed like your average villages/towns/cities.
Finally, Alina was brought back to Kribirsk to cross the Shadow Fold once more which was even worse than the first time. She makes it to West Ravka where she can see the True Sea which was a beautiful setting full of hope and relief.
Bardugo’s writing was so easy to follow and I loved reading it. I didn’t really know what to expect coming into the book as I hadn’t read her stories before, but I definitely enjoyed it and she kept me coming back for more!
This is a great start to a series that I can’t wait to continue. The characters kept me on my toes and I couldn’t put the book down! I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book and how Alina will use her powers to become something extraordinary.