Miss Riki’s Review:
Alina Starkov lives a quiet, unassuming life in the once-great nation of Ravka, which has been torn apart by the Shadow Fold. With impenetrable darkness and flesh-eating monsters preying on the people, Alina serves in the regiment alongside her best friend. When the regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, quiet Alina reveals a dormant power that not only saves his life, but also might be the key to setting Ravka free from the darkness. She is immediately whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the magical elite known as the Grisha. Led by the mysterious Darkling, Alina realized that being a Grisha isn’t at all what it seems. Confronting the secrets of the Grisha and the looming power of the Darkling, Alina must harness her untamed power and fight for her freedom.
This book completely blew me away. The world building in this book is unparalleled, drawing the reader in from page one and never letting go. There is desperation and despair evident in the people of Ravka that leads to the idolization of a person they believe can set them free from the darkness. Alina is ill prepared to be that person, and as she becomes more and more ingrained in the life of the Grisha, it becomes evident that there is more to the Darkling’s rule than can be first conceived.
What I loved the most about this book (aside from the utterly perfect world building) was how our lead character, Alina grows throughout the novel. She goes on a complete journey from insecure and faltering to a woman of her own power and I cheered for her on every page. She’s whip-smart and observant and catches on quickly when there’s something amiss in her world. I loved that despite being a kickass role model, she also suffers from the emotions of a typical teenager, falling for the Darkling and muddying the waters of her relationship with Mal. She’s a real person instead of a caricature of a teen. Her characterization is so well done.
In this novel, Bardugo has woven a beautifully depicted, uniquely magical world set in a gorgeously bleak landscape. With unparalleled world building and a character that grows exponentially from her trials, this book is a compelling and captivating read.