There are sooooooo many things running through my mind about this book. I don’t know if I can, or will, write it all down, but we’ll see how this goes. I’ll start off by saying I’m giving this 4 STARS.
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.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
First, I want to say that I really enjoyed the book. I started late at night which was a huge mistake because I so desperately wanted to keep going. I was hooked but I was tired and drifting off to sleep. I woke up early the next morning and continued, finishing some time in the afternoon. It was a compelling and heart-pounding ride. I couldn’t put the book down. I got so emotionally invested that I was smiling in some parts, cheering, crying (yeah, that happened) and, whenever I could muster the strength to tear my gaze away from the page, sending a barrage of messages to the friend that had been pestering me for months to read it.
But I can’t give it 5 stars. I love the novel, but I just can’t. 4 stars isn’t so bad, right? I think if I had read this when I was younger, fifteen or sixteen, maybe, I would’ve soaked it all up and given it a 5. I’m a little older now (if you can call twenty as “a little older”) and a little less impressionable. It was a strange experience. Because while I was squirming with glee and excitement, part of me was also rolling my eyes. Some of the reasons I have listed below:
- There were some moments that felt so cliche I cringed. Like that moment when person A is pulled out of harm’s way by person B, and then once the harm has passed, person B realises the intimacy of the gesture and quickly lets go, while person A is trying to keep cool and not blush.
- I am not going to go into the use of Russian language and culture as I am not a native. I’m sure there are plenty of reviews about it.
THE THING I HATED THE MOST? Alina really annoyed me in the first half of the book. She’s just so … bitter. And I hate how she seemed to associate being pretty with being evil. The whole pretty female-hate in general left a sour taste in my mouth. There was a part in the book where Alina was thinking how Genya was quite nice for a pretty girl and just … sigh. As if being nice and pretty are mutually exclusive.
And then there was Zoya. I finished the book wondering what her purpose was. Alina only showed strength in combat training when Zoya — early established as some kind of nemesis because she was pretty and made eyes at Mal — was paired up with her for sparring practice. Zoya, the Grisha regarded by her peers as a great fighter, taken down by Alina who hadn’t really shown any progress before. To what end? I hope that Zoya plays a larger role in the other books and that she wasn’t just there to be spited.
Despite all that negative talk, it really was an exciting read, in a formulaic young adult novel sort of way (maybe I really have read too much YA) which makes it the best kind of escapist fiction. Recommended for people who loved Graceling by Kristin Cashore, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.
If you’re confused about the review, don’t worry. So am I.
So am I.