- Shadow & Bone (5/5)
- Siege & Storm (3.5/5)
- Ruin & Rising (5/5)
First Impressions/Pros and Cons:
I was first drawn into this series by the cover art, and before long the synopsis backed up the beauty of the cover. I was really eager to read this Fantasy based in Russia and around Russian culture!
In the first book, Bardugo grabbed me by my hand and pulled me through the book. I was constantly turning pages without even keeping track. I was dying for interaction between Mal and Alina, and then I was dying for more of The Darkling. Each page had another reason that pulled me deeper into the story of the Grisha. I found myself mesmerized by the Grisha and their powers, and was eager to keep track of the different color kefta’s, and the different powers of the Grisha. This book really established the world we were in, and the society that we faced.
In the beginning of the second book, I was happy to have more time with Mal and Alina, but the story continued at a very slow pace for me. The thing that pulled me through this novel was the interaction with the characters. I fell in love with Nikolai from very early on, and even Tolya and Tamar. When I got bored by the “details” I would hang on just to catch the banter between characters. After about 250 pages, the book finally grabbed me like a whirlwind and I finished it in one sitting. Book two, though it was slow, was designed mostly to see huge steps in character development, and to deepen the plot with strategy and detail. Bardugo waited until the very end, however, to pull you back into the main focus of the story.
The final book in the trilogy acted as a tornado for me. I was quickly swept up and carried away, just as I had been with book one. I was actually so focused on reading – eager to find out what happens – that I didn’t get to take as many notes as I would have liked to. Throughout the entire series I, personally, didn’t feel like there were any huge plot holes. Yes, there were some holes in the driving force behind some of the characters, but they were explained away by an unearthly calling, drawn to the forces uncontrollably. I did, however, find myself extremely irked with the fact that the first portion of this book is spent in a damp underground. Realistically, everyone would have gotten violently sick with Pneumonia, and other disease born from wet environments. Though this didn’t happen AT ALL, I guess I just have to remember this book is a fantasy, so maybe they don’t get sick like normal people?
All in all, Bardugo has well-placed plot twists, keeps you on your toes in the romance department, and creates characters that have realistic emotions and thought processes that I find makes them very relatable.
Now it’s time to talk about the very creatures who bring a book to life. Our protagonist, Alina Starkov, starts off timid. She is shy, easily emotional, and unsuccessful in life. She, as a person, is mediocre. There is no grandeur about her. She is not fiercely beautiful, incredibly intelligent, or even an above average map-maker. Starting off with someone who is so close to nothing really gives a character TONS of room to grow, and she did. By book two we see her come out of the “timid, woe-is-me, victim mentality” a bit. She begins to stuff her emotions down and swallow the heavy pills as they come. By the end of book two, she begins to accept her “calling.” Once we reach book 3, she’s forced to face what she is, and what she must be. She steps away from the character she once was, and we begin to see her blossom as a ruthless leader. The question lying beneath that is, is that a good or a bad thing?
Next, we have Mal, who by general consensus is not a favorite of many. In book one Mal starts off blind, and cocky. He was impervious to seeing what was right in front of him, and that was really quite painful to watch. He was your stereotypical “Player.” He loved the ladies, he loved his friends, and he loved to drink. By the end of book one, things had taken a shift. Suddenly the blinders came off, and he realized what he was missing. He became less jovial and careless, which is to be expected after a trauma or tragedy. Book two started off with him determined to no longer take life for granted, however, after a series of events he began to revert back to old behaviors. This was painstakingly annoying and made me hate him for a while. At the beginning of book three he was back to living a life of devotion, but before long he’d begun to come to terms with his decision to put the blinders back on. By the end of the series, despite the constant back-and-forth drama, he’d taken his fair share of losses (including finally losing the blinders) and he sets off on a lifetime journey of being worthy of the gift he has.
The Darkling, oh what words I have for him. When we meet him in book one he starts off as very cold and distant. He seems calculated and acts as one might expect a noble to act. Along the way, he becomes this fiercely sexy, kind, and charming being whom I think everyone wanted a piece of. Raise your hand if you wanted to take Alina’s place in book one. *Jabs hand in air violently* By the end of book one we begin to see other sides of his character that are cold, and callous. He is goal-oriented and unafraid of taking any actions necessary to meet this goal. In book two I began to question if he had succumbed to the thing that destroys us all – love. He remains cold and callous throughout the rest of book two. After we reach the halfway mark in book two, and most prominently in book three, we see heavy chips in his armor. The facade begins to break and we get a glimpse of the softer sides of the Darkling.
Each character in this book – Nikolai, David, Tolya, Tamar, Sergei, Nadia, Baghra, Zoya, etc – develops beautifully throughout. We see progressions in personality, the revealing of secrets, flaws in them as a person, their strengths, and weaknesses. Personally, I think my favorite character was Nikolai because he was witty, sarcastic, had the spirit animal of a peacock, and the resilience of a born leader.
This Russian Folk Fantasy has ravaged my heart and made me a home in Ravka. With a battle of self vs. society, good vs. evil, and love conquers all this novel will take you on a journey of light versus the darkness. Personally, I would rate this series 4.5/5, and would most definitely recommend to a friend. I would have been happy to give it a five-star rating had book two not been so slow initially. With some sexual scenes, and vivid depictions of death and war, personally, I wouldn’t suggest this series for anyone under the age of 15. I hope you enjoy(ed) this series as much as I did, and I would love to hear your thoughts!
“The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak.” – The Darkling
“The moment our lips met, I knew with pure and piercing certainty that I would have waited for him forever.” – Alina