Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two.
This story was fast-paced, stunning, and very addicting.
Of course I had heard about the hype surrounding the Grisha trilogy for a while now. There are many, many people who are rabid fans for it and I think I understand the hype now. It was so gripping and the writing was easy to read, full of fascinating world details, beautiful names, interesting magic, and characters that were… well, they were interesting.
Alina Starkov is an orphaned girl who grew up in an orphanage where she felt lonely a lot of the time and where she didn’t really know who she was. I thought that she was a good character and was trying to figure out her place in the world, but she didn’t stand out to me. She dealt with a lot of problems of being forced into a world that she never thought she had any business in and she adjusted to it pretty quickly (well, a few months time, but still), and there were, of course, some hiccups and revelations along the way. I’m more interested to see what will happen with her in the next book because I felt like she had a lot of potential in this one and it just wasn’t quite reached. Like, she was there, but not quite. Her power was interesting and developing and I wanted to see more of that development and how she felt about it. I was very impressed with her and being able to reclaim herself in the end over the Darkling’s powers because, oh man, let’s talk about him next.
The Darkling is a mysterious figure who’s ability is to create darkness. I was wary of him in the beginning because I thought he couldn’t be trusted, and then when he was trying to gain Alina’s trust as time went on, and the kiss? I was skeptical of him after that. I’m all for romance, but that felt rushed and out of place even for me. And then we learn a bit more about him from Baghra and I’m like, “I KNEW IT!” I’m not sure where he truly stands, if what he’s thinking and doing are truly to bring Ravka peace, but I do like the line, “Make me your villain.” Because it’s true. He’s probably the most interesting character in that regard because I want to know more about his side of the story from him.
Mal grew up with Alina as an orphan, and he grew into a very good looking young man with a cocky attitude. He ends up in the First Army as their best tracker, able to “find a rabbit out of a rock,” and he is probably my favorite. He wasn’t overly complex or anything, but he touched a place in my heart and I’m rooting for him in more ways than one. As a human, he doesn’t have any powers, but I like that he uses his smarts and instincts a lot more than the Grisha do and I’m interested to see where it’ll lead them in the next book.
There were other side characters, such as Genya, whom I really liked and I thought had many sides to her. She understood court politics and I think was really becoming a friend to Alina. And then there was Baghra and I wasn’t sure what to make of her and, frankly, I’m still unsure. The Apparat is a very mysterious character and I’m wondering what he’ll do or be in the next books.
The biggest downside I had with this book was the pacing. I felt the pacing was really off, for some reason, like it was all being very rushed. I felt like I didn’t get enough time with Alina, that I didn’t get to see enough of her explore her powers, explore herself, and explore the world. I wanted more, and I felt that the pacing resulted in there not being enough to really grasp in regards to that.
And, like I said, I felt that all of the characters didn’t reach their full potential that I was so hoping for in this novel. I felt like they were so close – just a sentence or two away from really doing something amazing – but I felt like I didn’t see it. Not to say that I didn’t love the characters, because I do, but I just wanted more.
The other thing was I felt like the first half of the story wasn’t as memorable as the second half. I mean, it was still good and it obviously built up to what the rest of the plot lead to in the story, but I just haven’t grasped it fully like I have the second half.
I think the strongest element this story had going for it was the world. The world building was absolutely phenomenal and I loved it. From the vast lands, the magic, the cities, the Fold, everything was well thought out and described. It was very richly detailed and very easy to picture. I also like the map and referencing back to it because there was a lot of traveling going on, so it was nice to see just where cities and locations were.
Overall, I really enjoyed this first book. Though I had a few minor problems with it, it was still highly enjoyable and addictive and I can’t wait to read the next book.
I rate this 4/5 stars and recommend it!