That’s because it’s good, and you should read it.
The 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.
So yes, clearly I’m still on my YA fantasy kick, and I’m so glad I added this to my list on a recommendation from one of my favorite writer-bloggers. This book started off so incredibly good. The beginning of the prologue (I LOVE prologues, SO MANY great published books have them, and yet people are constantly telling me to cut mine from manuscripts–but that’s a rant for another day):
The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke’s house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.
The boy and the girl had arrived within weeks of each other, two more orphans of the border wars, dirty-faced refugees plucked from the rubble of distant towns and brought to the Duke’s estate to learn to read and write, and to learn a trade. The boy was short and stocky, shy but always smiling. The girl was different, and she knew it.
Huddled in the kitchen cupboard, listening to the grownups gossip, she heard the Duke’s housekeeper, Ana Kuya, say, “She’s an ugly little thing. No child should look like that. Pale and sour, like a glass of milk that’s turned.”
“And so skinny!” the cook replied. “Never finishes her supper.”
Crouched beside the girl, the boy turned to her and whispered, “Why don’t you eat?”
“Because everything she cooks tastes like mud.”
“Tastes fine to me.”
“You’ll eat anything.”
They bent their ears back to the crack in the cupboard doors.
A moment later the boy whispered, “I don’t think you’re ugly.”
“Shhhh!” the girl hissed. But hidden by the deep shadows of the cupboard, she smiled.
I love this. And it only gets better.
After the brief prologue where we learn a bit about the world–it’s imperial Russia with monsters and magic–we skip to the present, where the boy and the girl are still friends, in the army together, about to embark upon a dangerous mission. Then we’re thrown into the action right away–and that’s where things really get good.
Things I loved about this book:
1. Childhood friends maybe becoming more. I’m a sucker for this. I’ve included it in two out of the three novels I’ve written/am writing. More on this on Thursday.
2. The setting is so well drawn. It almost feels like historical fiction–the author clearly did a ton of research. One refreshing facet of this world is how they have rifles, not just magical powers and medieval weapons as found in most fantasy. And they actually talk about how modern innovations are changing the world. I haven’t seen much of that in fantasy–usually the world just is as it is. Something to keep in mind for my own work.
3. Gray characters Characters who are pure good and pure evil are boring. I like not knowing whether or not to root for someone, and this book has it in spades.
4. The beginning Bardugo gets an A++ on the first several chapters. I could not stop reading.
Things that made me give this book 8/10 instead of 10/10
1. The Middle It started off fantastically–but midway through got a little boring. There was a long middle where not much happened, which was kind of a letdown after the amazing beginning.
2. One big revelation–no spoilers!–came totally out of nowhere for me. I would have liked more hints to this. If you’ve read the book, you probably know what I’m talking about.
3. One of the romances–no spoilers!–seemed to come too easily. Again, would have liked more build-up.
4. Girl who thinks she’s a nobody suddenly getting special powers is a bit of a trope. I’ve just seen it a lot. But people seem to like it, so there’s that.
I really liked this book though, and just bought the two sequels. Can’t wait to dive into them after finishing my current read (which is not fantasy, but amazing in its own right–more on that one next week perhaps!)
Have you read this trilogy? Did you like the sequels? Let me know!
Image found here