The Grisha Trilogy is one of those series of books that seems to pop up on my tumblr all the time. The three books are set in a Russian-esque world where the once-great nation of Ravka is torn apart by a swathe of seething, dangerous darkness through the middle of the country, filled with monsters and near-impossible to cross. Alina, an orphan and a refugee, is a mapmaker and unobtrusive, until the day she reveals a power which could save Ravka from the seething darkness of the Shadow Fold.
There are three books in The Grisha Trilogy – Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising – along with several extras, from other characters’ perspectives, and Ravkan folk tales. I’ve read almost all of the extras.
Alina was an interesting main character – in some ways she was very clichéd, as a young girl who suddenly comes into immense power and has to find her way in a new society of which she is suddenly elite – so far, so Trudi Canavan. But she was flawed in a way that lots of the heroines of other YA fantasy books aren’t. She makes a lot of mistakes, all of which make her more human – even if she’s not really human, since she’s Grisha.
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.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.
But Alina isn’t what’s interesting about these books. No, not at all. She’s not the worst MC I’ve ever read, but there’s nothing truly compelling about her. She has a love story, and a self-actualisation arc, and she’s struggling with doing the right thing. But the far more interesting character in this trilogy is the Darkling – the villain of the piece. At once seductive and terrifying, powerful and still vulnerable, the Darkling is the sort of terrifyingly interesting and appealing character that could stand up with many greats.
Much like Iago is by far the most interesting character in Othello, as he schemes and plots to further his own ends, the Darkling in the Grishaverse is compelling and terrifying as he manipulates those around him (including Alina) to achieve his ends. The only extra from the trilogy that I actually haven’t read is the prequel concerning the Darkling, which is something I’ve been meaning to correct for ages.
The Grishaverse wasn’t a world I fell in love with the way I have done with other series – I wouldn’t rank it as highly as I do the Throne of Glass series, despite specific books in ToG having lower ratings than Grisha books. I’m not entirely sure why that is. There just wasn’t anything truly memorable about the world. It was certainly good, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed all three books and will definitely read the other series set in the Grishaverse – Six of Crows – at some point in the future. But there was something missing from this. I’m not sure what it was, but some spark wasn’t there for me. I did really like the Darkling, but the rest of the cast of characters was pretty forgettable, and I wasn’t caught up in any great emotions at moments of turmoil and trauma.
Still though – The Grisha Trilogy was thoroughly enjoyable, and I will read more from Leigh Bardugo in the future.
Plus I did quite like the Ravkan Fairy Tales which were available in addition to the main stories. If there was a whole book of them, I’d probably be as happy as with any other Grishaverse tales – but then I really do love fairy tales.
Shadow and Bone
Siege and Storm
Ruin and Rising