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.
Full disclosure: I had a hard time getting motivated to read this book. Fuller disclosure: it was because I read so many rave reviews. Sounds counter-intuitive, yes? But no. Not to me. Contrary to all of the melt-downs online over bad reviews, I actually enjoy reading books where the reactions are divided. It’s more exciting for me because it’s fun to see if I’m with the lovers or the haters, or somewhere in between. In this case, I’m in the lovers camp right along with everyone else.
So what did I love? Well, first and foremost it was the world building that did it for me. As a known non-fan of the fantasy genre (but I’m trying) a book has to really grab me and draw me in, and this one did. I loved all of the different kinds of magical people. I loved the fancypants palaces and the expansive forests. And I really loved the Shadow Fold and the terrible creatures that live within it. There is a scene at the beginning of the book where the group is crossing the Shadow Fold and it is genuinely scary. It kind of reminded me of the movie Pitch Black, except with magic people instead of Vin Diesel.
That’s not to say that I loved the book unconditionally. I confess that I thought it started off somewhat slow, although when it got going for me it really got going and it never really stopped. It barrels along with tons and tons of action, drama, and some romance as well.
I also didn’t love Alina. Don’t get me wrong, she was ok, I just didn’t connect with her in a meaningful way the way I do with my very favorite protagonists. I did, however, love the heck out of Mal. And I thought The Darkling was a great character as well (plus his name made me laugh, because I’m a total child).
I’ll be very interested to see where this series goes from here.