I think I’ve made it obvious by now that I’m a big fan of fantasy novels, particularly if they span over the course of a series so I have lots of opportunities to get emotionally attached to all the fictional characters. Recently the last book in The Grisha Trilogy was released, something I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever for. I don’t even remember how I came across the series, but I’m so glad I did. I read the first book (Shadow and Bone) over a year ago, waited impatiently for the second book (Siege and Storm) to be released, and then faced an even longer and totally agonising wait for Ruin and Rising, the final instalment, to arrive in my hands. The wait was made even more torturous by the fact I was stuck in the middle of reading a ginormous and slightly mediocre book when the release date rolled around, and not being one who takes giving up in the middle of a book lightly, forced myself through it until I finished. I had a brief (I’m talking like, maybe an hour here) break from reading after I finally closed the last page, and then I started on Ruin and Rising. After what felt like an eternity trying to get through the previous book I read, I felt pleased that I finished R&R in a little over twenty four hours.
The Grisha Trilogy is definitely my kind of book, and even more my kind of fantasy universe. I love when fantasy books give a really detailed look inside how that particular world works, be it through politics or monarchy or religion– and The Grisha Trilogy definitely delivers on all three. Throughout the course of the trilogy we’re taken from army barracks to royal palaces and everything in between, taking it all in from the point if view of our protagonist, the orphaned Alina Starkov. I have a love/hate relationship with first person narrative, but Bardugo definitely delivers with Alina’s voice; she is totally believable and her emotions really shine through in through in the writing. Alina is flawed in the right moments and I like that she’s not a perfect character. It would be very easy to make Alina self-righteous and super entitled, but she had a good head on her shoulders, which definitely adds to the enjoyment of the book. The plot isn’t everything when reading a book, the narration definitely plays a major part in whether I enjoy something or not.
Amazingly complex fantasy world aside, the characters are what really make this series for me. Alina is great and everything, but it’s all the attractive boys that made me really fall in love (with the series, not the boys… maybe the guys too, shush). The Darkling was my first love in the series, even when I got the impression that I was supposed to be rooting for someone else, he was always my favourite. However, the second book totally changed that with the introduction of Nikolai, who might be in the running for the top space in my fictional crushes list. I will admit I never really got the whole Mal attraction thing, and for the most part of the series I don’t think he brings that much to the plot, other than Alina pining over him. There’s been very few books where I’ve actually cared about the romance subplot, so I’m a little confused over how this series managed to pull me in, but I did, so I’ll have to deal with it. Team Nikolai forever.
In more technical terms, I really liked the pacing of the book. Everything felt just right, and I didn’t find myself mentally screaming ‘hurry upppppp’ whenever I turned a page, something that happens more often than not when I’m reading YA novels. I can’t really talk for the first two books in the series, because I read them so long ago that I can’t remember every little detail– but I do think that R&R was my favourite book of the series. The ending was definitely not what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it. There’s nothing worse than finishing a book and realising you guessed the outcome two hundred pages ago. I definitely found myself caring more about the minor characters in the last book, some of whom I didn’t really care for in the previous two. Everyone really came into their own, and even though we don’t get to hear their take on events like we do Alina’s, I’d like to think I got to know them pretty well over the course of the final book. Genya especially, I definitely didn’t expect her to turn out so badass.
I think that YA books sometimes get a bad reputation, particularly in the fantasy genre– but The Grisha Trilogy is a really satisfying read. The universe is just so rich with culture and history that it didn’t come secondary to the characters, it was just as important to the plot as Alina herself. I really hope there will be more stories set in that world because I don’t think I’m done with Ravka just yet. I’m all for a Nikolai spinoff series, I’d love to know what he gets up to when he’s not fulfilling his royal duties.
I give the The Grisha Trilogy 4/5 stars, for a really intriguing and intricate read.