Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Orphan Alina has never had high aspirations for her life. She seems perfectly content working with maps, while bunking off from her duties to hang out with her childhood friend, Mal. It becomes quiet apparent early on that while Mal and Alina are best friends, having grown up orphans together, she clearly wants more but he doesn't seem to even realize she's a member of the opposite sex. And thus the teenager pining begins.
While I love the world that Bardugo creates in The Grisha series, I cannot say that I fell in love with Alina. As she finds out that there is more to her life than she ever expected, she takes it rather well, though she struggles with her new identity. She seems to fight her destiny, while she is quick to find herself drawn toward the mysterious and perhaps dangerous Darkling. At some point throughout this novel, Alina turns into a cliche female narrator in the young adult genre. She finds herself growing closer to this dark, handsome new stranger while all the while, she is still pining over her separation from Mal and metaphorically pulling petals off flowers wondering if he even misses her or not. A lot of Alina's life seems to revolve around these two relationships, and it gets a little old.
And yet, I cannot help but love this world of Ravka. It is damned by the Unsea and the Shadow Fold, which hold evil monsters lurking to ravage any human in sight. I love the constant twists and turns in the plot, especially as Alina is introduced into this entire other side of the world. Secrets and mistrust abound, and she struggles to know who she can trust, if anyone, while she struggles with her own bare identity.
While the plot surrounding the Shadow Fold is epically amazing, Alina's decisions often left me fraught with anger. Though she is but an orphan of simple upbringing and training, and though she is perhaps a bit to preoccupied with her feelings towards members of the opposite sex, I still respected her, until she started making the decisions towards the end of the novel that left me scratching me head. With equal parts disbelief and disgust, I watched her turn from a rather brave heroine to a young girl driven solely by her heart. She lets her hear rule her better judgment, trying to save the object of her affections, though she knows very well it endangers her entire kingdom. She had to know that her antagonist was never going to keep his word and that her decisions made out of sheer desperation would never lead to a happy ending for her or anyone else, but she cowers to him anyway. I lost a lot of respect for her in this regard. And I can see why Bardugo chose to write the story in such a manner once I concluded the novel, as it played so well into how the plot unraveled, but I felt it cheapened the result. Though the ending to Shadow and Bone is far from a happily ever after, I still felt like Alina got off a little too easily compared to what she was up against.
Though, I will admit, what I had in mind would not have led to much of a sequel. And I must confess, my fingers are already itching to pull back the cover of Siege and Storm and to stink into it.