Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Alina Starkov is a mapmaker, and not a very good one. She tries her best to keep her position within the army, under the shadow of her best friend, Malyen Oretsev. It's all she can do in a nation torn by war.
When a sudden attack on her regiment unleashes a dormant power within her, Alina is taken from the military and thrown into a lavish life she never imagined for herself. Under the watch of the powerful Darkling, Alina learns that there are more secrets to her nation than she realized.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Date Read: July 31, 2018
It's been several years since this was so hyped up, and I was the person who completely missed the bandwagon. To make up for it, it became one of my goals this year to finally read not just this first book, but the whole trilogy.
Everyone says that the beginning is slow, but I didn't find that to be the case. I thought that it was well-paced considering how much needed to be set up properly. I'm a little more lenient with fantasy novels because they need more time to be set up, and I think that this fit itself into the appropriate time frame for how long it took for the action to kick in.
The premise is pretty interesting and I can't say that I've ever read anything else that's similar. People often talk about how unique Leigh Bardugo's worlds are and I can see why. There's a lot about the Grisha world that I find fascinating, and I'm hoping that more will be explained in later books. As of right now, there's enough world-building for me to understand what's happening, but I would like more insight into the history of the Grisha and more details on their powers.
The middle of the book is where I started feeling a little slumpy. It wasn't that the plot wasn't interesting anymore, it was just that I wanted more action than I was getting. Even when things started to pick back up, it didn't feel like I was getting the same magnitude as the beginning. I wanted more drama and more action to push me through the rest of the book, but what I ended up with felt more like a lot of exposition with the occasional bit of action tossed in there. As things got closer to the end, it didn't quite feel like I was getting as much excitement as when the book began. Sure, there was action again, but I couldn't tell where it was going and it didn't keep me very engaged.
There is and isn't a romance in this book, as far as I'm willing to say. There's some moments between Alina and Mal, and Alina and the Darkling. Is it a love triangle? Yes. Am I rooting for someone in particular? No. Am I invested in the romance? No. Do I think that it could be written a little better? Yes. There's just something missing from the romantic aspect of this book and I wanted more out of it.
The ending was decent. I thought that it was a little dull considering how much build-up there was throughout the book. Yes, it was big, but I didn't feel the impact of it. Reading the end was more like "Oh okay I'm done. Cool, I guess I can start the next book tomorrow," and less like "OH MY GOSH I NEED THE NEXT BOOK NOW THROW IT TO ME FROM MY SHELF." I guess you could say that a part of me struggled to stay invested as the book went on. But I'm hoping that I'll be a lot more invested in the rest of the trilogy.
(Also, yes, I'm reading this first so that I can get to the spin-off duology later on. I know it's not necessary, but I want to get a better understanding of this world first).
I liked Alina as the main character of the book. Not the most original character, but considering when this was written, I liked her. I wish there was a little more to her though, as I think she could fall flat pretty easily if you took away her powers.
Everyone talks about how much they love the Darkling, and I can see why, but I think I need to get to the next book to really see what the hype is about. I liked him, don't get me wrong, but he fell a little flat considering how many people rave about how much they love him and why he's one of their favorite villains ever.
Mal is...strange. I didn't get the best feeling from him in the beginning, and I feel rather indifferent toward him. Whether or not he's present in the book doesn't really feel like it matters much to me. Sure, he's a great tracker and all, but he doesn't feel important enough right now. I know people say they don't like him, but really, I feel more like I forget about him a lot of the time.
Genya is precious. Protect her at all costs (and David too).
4.5 stars. I think it's worth trying because Leigh Bardugo is a great writer and her imagery is beautiful. Right now, the world-building could use a little work, but I'm sure that'll improve as time goes on.