The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
My overall rating: ☆☆☆/☆☆☆☆☆ (3.3 stars)
Shadow and Bone: 3.5 stars
Seige and Storm: 3.5 stars
Ruin and Rising: 3 stars
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Shadow and Bone Summary (from Goodreads)
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
The last few months have been some of the busiest of my life. I finished my third-to-last semester of college, during which I read sixteen books for school in addition to a numerous amount of PDFs. Then over the summer I took not one, but two classes, during which I read two books and again, a numerous amount of PDFs. In the midst of all these readings for school I found it hard to make time to read for pleasure, especially during the last few months. When I’m busy or overwhelmed, I tend to reread books because I know the plot already, so if I leave it unfinished it’s not a big deal. In addition to taking two classes over the summer, I also started working at a new job where I somehow ended up logging over 40 hours each week. My summer in three words: exhausting, stressful, short.
In the midst of this crazy summer I did find the time to read a few books that I’d never read before. Finally, after years of putting it off, I decided to pick up Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, the first in the Grisha Trilogy. I bought Shadow and Bone over two years ago, and for two years it had sat on my shelf, untouched except for when I was reorganizing. One reason it took my over two years to read this series is because of the hype. This series is incredibly beloved by so many people in the book community. Whenever a book or series is so beloved and hyped by so many people, I tend to avoid it. I’m scared of it not living up to the hype, and I’ve heard about it so much that I honestly just don’t want to hear about it anymore.
So, what did I think of this beloved trilogy? For me it rides the line between fine and good. It was okay. Is it spectacular? No. Is it overhyped? In my opinion, which might be an unpopular one, yes.
One of the things I did like was the world/setting. Bardugo did an excellent job creating the Russian-inspired fantasy world of Ravka. In YA fantasy novels, a lot of worlds are very similar. This was a breath of fresh air. I also appreciate Bargudo’s magic system, if it can even be called that. In the novels, ‘magic’ is called The Small Science. Basically, the ‘magical’ powers and abilities are based in science, which is pretty cool to me.
The plot was lacking for me. The same thing kept happening over, and over, and over. How many times do I need to read about the Darkling (bad guy) catching up to Alina (our heroine), trying to capture her, and in the end her escaping? I don’t think this series needed to be three books. Two definitely would have sufficed. One huge aspect of the plot is the search for three magical amplifiers. The big question is, what is the third amplifier? It takes basically the entire third book for our main characters to figure it out when readers could figure it out hundreds of pages earlier.
Now onto the characters. While the plot was definitely lackluster, one area where Bardugo excels is in character development. Alina was realistic and relatable, and I did enjoy her as our narrater. But my most favorite thing of all was how the lines between good and bad were blurred for both Alina and the Darkling. I LOVE when characters are complex and imperfect. Bardugo did this fantastically, and this is honestly the only reason why I’m considering reading other books.
I just felt no surprise or joy when I was reading these books. In the end, I was very underwhelmed by the Grisha Trilogy. I loved the characters, but the plot was unimpressive and predictable. This is Bardugo’s first series though, so I am willing to give her another shot in the future.