Book Review – The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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Ratings:

Shadow and Bone: 4/5

Siege and Storm: 3/5

Ruin and Rising: 3/5 (although, I would argue this was a 2/5)

Look, I’m not going to hate. I’m not going to hate because the Grisha fandom is very strong and I’m worried that a mob of fans will come to my house with pitchforks. They’d kidnap me and do an old fashioned hanging in the town square.

I wish I loved these books especially since I’ve been easing myself slowly into high fantasy. There were a few nuggets of good reading, but then there was a bunch of stuff that I couldn’t really stand. I will say that the final book did surprise me the most and I ended up hating it in a “I love it, but I hate it” sort of way.

To give you a brief synopsis, this is the story about a chick named Alina who has some magical power that no one else has and everyone wants to use for themselves. She gets involved with a bunch of dudes who all wanted her for different reasons while she spent her time trying to find herself.

I know I’m like years late to review this book and it’s probably been reviewed to death. So instead of doing a review, I’m just going to chat through it. I took a chance on this book because the book universe kept on talking about it and I needed to really see what it was about. I’m the type of girl that needs to find out on her own. Sadly, I didn’t think I would be completely disappointed. If you can imagine my disappointment after reading “Allegiant,” then I can feel it three-fold for this entire series and I will be using these novels as kindling (jk, it wasn’t that bad).

If you don’t want to be spoiled or hate me more, turn away now.

Book 1: Shadow and Bone

I can see how the first book can really pull a reader into the Grisha world. Every first book needs to explain the world they’re about to reveal before they dive into the drama. There’s always some big reveal and some action that causes the reader to continue with the series. This is what I call the “make or break” book. If I’m not captured by the story at the end of the novel, then I don’t want to waste my time continuing through the entire series.

For the most part, I’ve come across a lot of first novels that have really caught my attention and made me continue reading. This is definitely not an exception to the rule.

I went into this book with an open mind. You have to be open-minded when it comes to the first book. I found myself wrapped up in the story:

  • Who is the mysterious Darkling? Is he the good guy or the bad guy? Is he the bad guy that Alina will spend trying to make good? Oooh.
  • What about Alina? Will she be shy about her powers like Katniss and fight tooth and nail to deny herself the strength to be a leader?
  • Who is the mysterious Mal? Is he the lovable side kick or is he the love of her life?

All these questions sort of swirled around right until the final half of the book when the Darkling reveals that he really is the bad guy and places a collar around Alina’s neck like a wild animal. God, I really gripped the book right at this point. I really thought he liked her and I really thought he was the good guy, but he’s your classic villain. Chaos ensues and Alina escapes. What about that doesn’t make you reach out and want to read the next one? I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

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Book 2: Siege and Storm

The second book. This is a tough one. In the usual 2nd book, there’s some more action where the first book left off. I thought that this was off to a good start when The Darkling kidnaps them again and forces the team to search for the second fetter for Alina. However, that whole thing was done 1/4 of the way through the novel.

By the end of the book, you’re so excited to find out what happens that you can’t wait to read the final book. Then you read the final book and you’re left thinking, wtf. That’s the formula.

I don’t think I’ve read a second book a series that wasn’t chock full of action and fun…until I came across this book.

But the pace of this book was so slow that it wasn’t until the final 30 pages of this book that it finally picked up. This book was over 400 pages and I was kind of bored. Here’s where I always get annoyed with high fantasy. Every time I try to read them, there’s always strategizing and planning and weapon making and traveling. SO MUCH TRAVELING. Is high fantasy just supposed to be a bunch of people who walk around everywhere? Like, with rings and orcs and a dude named Gollum?

I think the most dissatisfying part of this book was all of the prep for maybe a few quick minutes of fighting and running. People put a lot of energy and work into preparing for battle, and it really didn’t do them any good by the end of it. What a bummer.

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Book 3: Ruin and Rising

After I finished Siege and Storm, I was not ready to read this final book. Honestly, I should have just read another book while I recharged from Siege and Storm because then I felt a little bit of annoyance with Ruin and Rising. Instead of actually reading this book, I skimmed through it. I’m sorry, book readers, I couldn’t finish it in any other way.

The final book is where all the action happens. It’s also been known as the series killer because almost every single final book I’ve ever read has disappointed me to the point where I’ve sworn off watching the movies. I might have gotten violent with the book as well.

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But I found myself feeling a lot of feels. I can’t even talk about them because it’s just so confusing. I liked it, but I hated it. And then I hated it, but liked it. It was all over the place I felt like I had some personality disorder.

This book explains a little bit more about the story behind Morozova’s creations. We also finally get some backstory on The Darkling and his mom Baghra.

However, this didn’t turn out the way I thought it was and honestly, it was a little predictable. Finding out that The Darkling is the Black Heretic in the first novel is one thing, but then finding out that he’s the grandson of Morozova, the dude that made all the fetters that he’s currently looking for? It felt like Harry Potter when you find out that Voldemort is a descendent of one of the Three Brothers and had the Resurrection Stone the entire time (sorry if that’s a spoiler for you folks, but that book has been out for years! READ IT).

And then Mal is a descendent of Morozova as well and he’s like cousins with The Darkling? It’s like Alina loves the wrong men.

Uhh and what is with Nikolai becoming a nichevo’ya, but still having a small part of his conscience within him?

AND THEN ALINA KILLING MAL AND BECOMING A HUMAN?! WHAT?!

FINALLY, SHE JUST LIKE STABS THE DARKLING AND HE DEAD. Ugh, his death was probably the most disappointing in the entire book. He’s supposed to be this eternal creature that has lived hundreds of years, yet it takes Alina stabbing him to kill him. That’s it! Honestly, if it was that easy, I’m pretty sure he could have died in the first novel.

I love the small iota of humanness you feel for The Darkling when he asks Alina to say his real name to him as he dies. I LOVE IT. It’s that sneaky writer trick people use to try and make you feel a little bit of empathy for the bad guy. No bad guy has ever been a fully demonized being. Just check it out with every book you’ve ever read.

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Summary

Look, there are some merits to this story. For example, the characters are well written out and I feel like I know more about everyone before the end. But I came to the realization that there were a few themes that I couldn’t really get behind and that ultimately brought me to my review:

  1. The religion – For some reason, the made up saints and the belief in them was kind of weird. I think this was achievable without having to have some strange religious affiliation. Calling someone a saint because they have the power of the sun feels strange for a universe that have powers to heal people or bring darkness. It just felt like a device used to move the story along.
  2. The traveling – I mention this in the Siege and Storm section and the Ruin and Rising section, but I didn’t know there was this much traveling in high fantasy. If this is something that typically happens with high fantasy books, then I guess I have to keep that in mind for the future.
  3. The predictability – I’m glad that Alina didn’t turn out to be the descendent of Morozova’s zombie kid, but I’m not happy that I was able to predict that somehow Mal has some magical power. I didn’t like how predictable The Darkling’s intentions were.

I would definitely recommend this book to someone else. It wasn’t for me, that’s for sure, but I know that there’s a whole fandom who would disagree with me. I know Leigh Bardugo also wrote Six of Crows, which takes place in the same universe, so maybe I’ll enjoy that more than I did this one. :/