Alina and Mal grew up orphans in the care of a generous duke. Now, they’re soldiers in the first army preparing to cross the Fold–a misty darkness inhabited by dangerous monsters called Volcra. When their skiff is attacked by these monsters, Alina reveals a surprising power that nobody knew she had–including herself. She’s a sun summoner, one who can control and harness the power of the sun. This power is rare and she is immediately brought before the Darkling (the most powerful of the Grisha). Who can she trust now that everything she thought she knew about herself is wrong?
Okay, I’d been hearing a lot about these books but had not read them. First impression was that the covers reminded me of The Hangman’s Daughter (a little) which was not a book that I particularly enjoyed. But since I’d heard so many good things about it, I decided to finally give it a try. First off, the way Bardugo portrays magic/the small science is GENIUS. Picture the element bending from The Last Airbender, but more thought out and better. I loved in the third book how they stretched their powers and applied them in different ways. I mean, Alina using her power over sunlight to make things invisible? Awesome! And (if this power actually existed) physically possible and accurate. It’s obvious that the author spent a lot of time thinking about these powers, how they’ll work, and realistically what applications there are for them. Another thing I liked was that using their powers made them healthier and suppressing them made them sick. I just thought that was interesting (and maybe symbolic). Also, Heartrenders? Terrifying. I’d be so scared of them if they were real.
All that being said, I had a really hard time with Alina (and at times Mal) in the first two books. Literally the first note that I wrote while reading Shadow and Bone was, “I don’t like Alina. She’s kind of annoying to me so it’s really annoying to have her be the narrator and stuff. She’s just a very flat, superficial character.” Even after reading the rest of the series, I still stand by that statement. She was too wishy washy for me. I think my readers know by now that I can’t stand when a girl can’t make up her mind between guys and throughout the series, she shows interest in THREE. And her whole thing with the Darkling? CREEPY. He’s like 100 years older than her! At least! Anyway…that seriously bothered me at the beginning, but kind of got lost by the end of the series. So, I had my issues with the characters in the beginning, but by the end they’d grown on me and I think Bardugo did a really good job showing the complexities of side characters like Genya and David. Nobody in these books was perfect and I liked that.
One last small issue that I had with these books is how physically weak Alina was at times. She’s in first army for crying out loud! I know they drafted basically anybody and that she was a cartographer, but don’t they have some kind of physical training or boot camp? Once she starts training with the Grisha, she gets her butt kicked and I just felt like it didn’t make sense to me that she was so weak. Am I the only one?
Overall though, I did like these books pretty good (I mean, I read all three of them, so that’s saying something). In a nutshell a few more points:
- Sturmhond–awesome character. Loved him the whole time.
- I had a weird suspicion of Oncat that I couldn’t get over in the third book…I was certain that he was spying on the group somehow for the Darkling. Weird, I know.
- I felt like the ending for these books was PERFECT. There’s nothing that I would have changed.
One of my favorite quotes from the last book Ruin and Rising:
Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay.
– pg 229
Overall Rating: 3, 3, 4
Violence: Heavy (all three)
Sexual Content: Mild, Moderate, Mild
Language: Mild (all three)
Smoking/Drinking: Mild, Moderate, Moderate