So this is the first book in a trilogy.
In a war torn Ravka, Alina and her buddy, Mal, works for the First Army. But shit hits the fan and turns out Alina has some Grisha magic in her. She gets separated from Mal by the Darkling, a very powerful Grisha who works for the Ravkan King, and is brought to the main palace to nurture her talents so that she can prove even more useful than she already is to win the war. But Alina’s powers (which are directly opposite of the Darkling’s) are very elusive and the Darkling has something else in mind (something that smells like treason against the Ravkan Kingdom). And what about Mal.
That’s the best plot summary I can do which does no justice to the story but doesn’t give anything away.
(not much) SPOILERS
But anyway, this book is a slow burn. And that’s not to say I didn’t like it. I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself. Alina who’s a mapmaker and not a very good one at that finds herself in trouble during one of her mission and Mal almost dies. In a bid to save him, there’s some Grisha ex-machina moment and she releases a power which becomes the talk of the town. A power that seems to be very necessary to win the war. So the Darkling shows interest in her. Very good. He brings her to the main kingdom so that she can learn and nurture her powers and that’s what we follow. We follow Alina as she learns about her powers, learns how to fight, learns about the politics and the war. I won’t say there’s not much action, there is but just surrounding Alina. How she’s trying to fit herself into this new environment, how she’s coping without Mal, how she’s struggling the attraction of the Darkling. And I liked it.
I find Alina an alright character that I can root for.
And the Darkling… by the end of it, I can’t really hate the Darkling. I really don’t think he’s a bad guy. He’s an asshole but I don’t know I’m actually on his side rather than Alina’s HAHAHAHA. I mean, there’s a lot of speculation on his motivations and he acts in a dubious way but I sorta understand his rationale.
So here I am on Goodreads.
People find Alina boring. Note: this book is written in her point-of-view.
- Well. I agree that she’s not a kick-ass heroine. Not at the start, not in the middle and maybe not at the end. She is reliant on people around her to fill her in and to teach her. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. She isn’t ignorant nor is she stupid. She isn’t weak. She just doesn’t know things yet. And I can appreciate that she tries. Technically, she’s in Grisha school and she’s sucking at everything, of course she’s whining. And she’s very simple-minded and cares about how she looks and cares about guys which some readers say is ridiculous given she’s been in the military. And well. Hahahahaha. People are people. Being in the army only makes you appear rigid, inside you’re only human.
People find Alina a special snowflake.
- Yes. She is special. She’s the only one with the most coveted power that the Darkling requires. But somehow I wasn’t annoyed. It didn’t feel like she was the chosen one. Somehow…. it just felt like, with or without her, things will keep happening. Mainly because for the most of the book, she hasn’t harnessed her power yet. So technically, even though she might be able to ‘special’, there is nothing about her that’s special.
The accuracy of the book.
- Apparently, the Grisha language borrows a lot from Russian and readers point out that there are some notable inaccuracies. I do think it’s an issue. And a glaring issue if you understand Russian. It’s unfortunate. But as someone who doesn’t understand Russian, it was not a glaring issue nor was it an issue at all. Not that this makes the inaccuracy alright, no, it’s just unfortunate. And even Leigh Bardugo has mentioned it here.
There is only one issue I have with this book is at the end. The part at the end after the Darkling makes Alina his slave by the powers of the magical collar and kind of makes her kill Mal. But all of a sudden, she’s like ‘oh this magical collar listens to me too’ and opposes the Darkling’s orders to save Mal instead. I dislike that. The idea that feelings are so strong all boundaries are broken. Like bruh. K. I don’t know. An outburst of emotions which gives you sudden powers just seems like a cop-out, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT WAS DONE IN THE FIRST FEW CHAPTERS. I mean the same thing happened when she had to save Mal right at the beginning. Grr.
But by the end of it, it’s really hard to dislike the Darkling. The Darkling has a motive to regain power for his Grisha peeps who are made to feel less by Ravkan Kingdom and by their neighbouring kingdoms(?) of the Shu Han and Fjerdan by using Alina. Alina’s only goal is to save Mal which seems like the right decision for her. But in the whole grand scheme of things, Alina has stirred a lot of shit without realising all of this is bigger than her. I can’t wait for book 2.