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The Grisha Trilogy Review

Updated: May 4, 2021

Shadow and Bone, the topic of interest for many book lovers in 2021. As soon as it was announced that Netflix was making this a tv series everyone was obsessed. I, admittedly am one of those people that fell to the hype. I purchased the trilogy on apple books and read it as quickly as possible to be done before the show to came out.

As of now, the show is out and I’ve seen it but thats not what we’re going to talk about here. This is just going to be about the books and the trilogy overall. I will be posting a review of the TV series at some point as well if you are interested in that.

So lets talk about the books... I’m going to go individually here and then comment on the series as a whole at the end. The first section will be SPOILER FREE so if you have not read Shadow and Bone don’t worry. I will hopefully not ruin anything for you, if you’ve read the back of the book then you already know all the information I give you.

Shadow and Bone

Written from the first person perspective of Alina Starkov, a mapmaker for the first army of Ravka. Through Alina’s eyes the reader is introduced to shadow fold for the first time. Described as “a swath of nearly impenetrable darkness that grew with every passing year and crawled with horrors”. Things go awry when her regiment is attacked on a skiff crossing the fold and to save herself and her friends Alina unleashes a powerful magic she didn’t know she possessed, thus irrevocably altering her life. The book centres around Alina being brought into the world of the Grisha, magic welding citizens trained to use their abilities to defend Ravka. Guided by the general leading the second army, The Darkling, Alina must learn to control her magic in order to save Ravka from the shadow fold because she is believed to be the only person capable of doing so. This first installation to the series is full of friendship, loss, love, and betrayal. It brings you into the Grishaverse with an exciting story while still expertly introducing this amazing world!

So what did I think? I loved it. The book was captivating and really well written. Leigh Bardugo knew what she was doing when she created this incredible magical realm. Alina is awkward and quiet, she doesn’t feel like she fit into her life before and isn’t sure she fits in as a Grisha. You route for her to find her place and are really pulled into following her journey. The interactions between her and other characters are well thought out and feel genuine to the character being developed. Genya was a really interesting addition and quickly became one of my favourites and The Darkling is a really fun character to read, I enjoyed all aspects of his development in this book. The only thing I didn’t love was Mal, he was frustrating and ridiculous but that was his character so you can’t fault the book for that since it’s just a personal opinion. If someone was to ask me if this book was worth reading I would give a definite yes, I really enjoyed it and was excited for the next instalment in the series.

Favourite quote: “It was time to let go. That day on the Shadow Fold, Mal had saved my life, and I had saved his. Maybe that was meant to be the end of us. The thought filled me with grief, grief for the dreams we’d shared, for the love I’d felt, for the hopeful girl I would never be again. That grief flooded through me, dissolving a knot that I hadn’t even known was there.” - Alina

For those that like star reviews I would say this was a 4/5.


Siege and Storm

Back again with Alina but this time starting out in Cofton, a city off the coast of lower Novyi Zem where Mal and Alina escaped to in the aftermath of the events at the end of book 1.

They are being hunted by various groups looking to utilize her growing power. Alina is struggling in her new life, always on edge, ill from holding back her power, and haunted by the things she did to survive The Darkling. When they are caught and forced back into The Darkling’s plans Alina and Mal are forced to ally with a privateer to escape and search out help to destroy the fold and aid the Grisha of Ravka. The further she pushes herself to saving Ravka the more she begins to sacrifice and she realizes that she cannot succeed without losing parts of herself. The ending is fantastic and unexpected and made the reader excited to pickup the next book!

My thoughts, Nikolai is everything! By far my favourite character in the trilogy and he really carried this book. He has witty banter, a great character arc and is just really enjoyable to read! Mal still sucks, his personality is hard to read and I don’t like how he treats Alina. She constantly doubts herself in his presence and it basically unravels all the character growth she goes through. The book starts out really strong, there’s a bit of intro but it throws you into action within the first chapter. We get some new characters introduced, Sturmhond, Tamar, and Tolya; all are great additions to the trilogy. It cooled off and was slow for a little while in the middle for world and character/relationship building which for some might be hard to get through but since I was so invested in the plot and characters I didn’t have any trouble. I was really connected to Alina through the book and felt the emotions as she did so that made it a really fun read. I would also highly recommend this if someone asked about it.

Favourite quote: “So many men had tried to make her a queen. Now she understood that she was meant for something more. The Darkling had told her he was destined to rule. He had claimed his throne, and a part of her too. He was welcome to it. For the living and the dead, she would make herself the reckoning. She would rise.” - Alina

If I was to give the book a review based on stars I would say this is a solid 4.5/5.


Ruin and Rising

The finale to the trilogy. We start with a weakened Alina, cut off from her friends and allies, under the protection of those that view her as a saint. The Darkling is ruling Ravka from the stolen throne. She seeks out the ancient firebird for a chance at defeating the Darkling, saving her lost friend, and erasing the fold once and for all. The only caveat? The cost of using the mythical birds power may be her life.

This book was slow, extremely slow. It didn’t have the same drive as the second book and though there were some exciting moments it wasn’t much to really pull me along with the book. Nikolai is still the best character in this series.

Tamara and Tolya were interesting but in the end I did enjoy them. Zoya was an unexpectedly welcome addition that I quite enjoyed. The hard part witst felt lacking and the huge conclusion that we were waiting for was extremely disappointing for me, unfortunately can’t say more without spoiling the ending. I just felt let down, it felt like Leigh decided this was the easiest ending to keep the majority of readers happy but it didn’t feel like it reflected the growth of the characters or the relationships that had been building. And there was not at all enough of The Darkling in this book, the downside of using Alina as the only narrator was that we lost out on everything that was happening with him if it didn’t directly affect her which made it feel like nothing was really happening for big chunks of this book.

Favourite quote: “Na razrusha’ya. I am not ruined. E’ya razrushost. I am ruination.” - Genya

This would be a 2/5 from me and i’m sorry to say that because I had such high hopes for this trilogy. I would not recommend this, unless you like disappointing endings. If Leigh ever sees this review just know I really do love your writing and adore some of your other books but this one just didn’t come through for me.

The Trilogy as a Whole.

It’s really difficult to look at this series as a whole because the first two books are so drastically different from the last. As a duology it could have been spectacular but as a trilogy there was a lot lacking in the ending. I really did love the grisha universe that Leigh Bardugo created here, the magic system and the different nations were really interesting. Some of her characters were fantastic and I desperately want to know more about The Darkling and his past or even to read his perspective of the events in this Trilogy. So should you read it? It’s hard for me to say, if you want two amazing books then for sure read the first two, but I’ll leave it up to you for what to do about the last book.

———————————— MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!! ————————————

Alright friends, if you’ve read the trilogy or just don’t care about spoliers then welcome to the section where I rave about the things I loved and rant about the things that made me want to scream.

Now I believe in ending on the positive so we’re going to start with what I didn’t like so we can end on what I loved.

Things I didn’t like:

  • The lack of Darkling plot in the last book. He was the bad guy but didn’t really exist for the majority of the book and it was a little frustrating. I can’t fault the books fully for it though since they are technically Alina’s story not his.

  • Alina and Mal’s relationship.

  • The pacing of the last book.

  • Mal coming back to life... 🤦🏼‍♀️

Things I hated:

  • Alina’s ending. There are two things that I hate about the ending to her story. The one, which is something I hate more than anything when it comes to ending a book series. Is when a powerful character has been built up and up and up in a book, learning to accept themselves and their power, growing confident and badass, only to sacrifice the power for the ending. I would be fine with a main character having to sacrifice their life for their country or friends to survive. But to have her lose her power because the amplifiers transferred her power to the annoying people that thought she was a saint instead of her just being strong and awesome made me want to scream.

  • And then! To lose her power in order to gain an emotionally abusive partner. I was ready to rage quit. Mal never accepted her power, he wanted the old Alina, the one that relied on him, that thought he was the sun and she revolved around him. He couldn’t let her be strong and independent and be with him. No that would threaten his masculinity. 🤬 Alina had started to accept being the Sun Summoner, she liked being powerful and she enjoyed using her ability especially after suppressing it for so long and not only does she lose it but she goes back to a mundane life that never made her happy before.

  • Mal... lets talk about Malyen Oretsev for a moment... Mal was horrible. He was a shitty friend, not noticing that she felt out of place or that she was interested in him. He actually admits that he had been missing the amazing woman right in front of him and it wasn’t until she was getting put into a better life that he went after her. Word for word: “I missed you ever hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise.” Dick... He doesn’t understand her power or accept it. At one point he says to her “Do you blame me for every mistake I made? For every girl I tumbled? For every dumb thing I’ve said? Because if we start running tallies on stupid, you know who’s going to come out ahead”. Like what a jerk! He takes her out of Ravka at the end of the first book and doesn’t even seem to notice how much she’s struggling with not using her power or with feeling like an outsider again. He’s selfish and frustrating and I could probably write an entire post solely about why I hate him.

The things I loved:

  • Alina in the first two books. Her growth as a character and her accepting her power and realizing she was the one that controlled her destiny.

  • Genya and David 🥰 just adorable.

  • Baghra, she was amazing. I loved her so much!

  • Nikolai, everything about him. He was such a fun character to read about and it was absolutely devastating when he was attacked by The Darkling. It was the driving factor to me finishing the book, I had to know if he survived. I also just really enjoyed the friendship that grew between him and Alina and how damn supportive he was.

  • Zoya, surprisingly. She was annoying in the first book and I mostly disregarded her but she had a major redemption arc, I loved how she came back into the trilogy and became a solid character. The whole frenemies thing between her and Alina was really fun.

  • The Darkling, especially in the first book. He was really intriguing and became an interesting to learn about. I wish there had been more of him.

Good quotes that are kind of spoilers:

“This was his soul made flesh, the truth of him laid bare in the blazing sun, shorn of mystery and shadow. This was the truth behind the handsome face and the miraculous powers, the truth that was the dead and empty space between the stars, a wasteland peopled by frightened monsters.” - Alina

“There’s nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be a Hawk.” - Baghra

“It was time to let go. That day on the Shadow Fold, Mal had saved my life, and I had saved his. Maybe that was meant to be the end of us. The thought filled me with grief, grief for the dreams we’d shared, for the love I’d felt, for the hopeful girl I would never be again. That grief flooded through me, dissolving a knot that I hadn’t even known was there.” - Alina

“I’m sorry I left you so long in the dark. I’m sorry, but I’m ready now.” - Alina

“Fine. -Make me your villain” - The Darkling

“The less you say, the more weight your words will carry.” - Alina

”Anything worth doing starts as a bad idea.” Sturmhond/Nikolai

“I’ve seen what you truly are - and I’ve never turned away. I never will. Can he say the same?” - The Darkling

“So many men had tried to make her a queen. Now she understood that she was meant for something more. The Darkling had told her he was destined to rule. He had claimed his throne, and a part of her too. He was welcome to it. For the living and the dead, she would make herself the reckoning. She would rise.” - Alina

“Like calls to like. I’d sensed it when the Hummingbird entered the Unsea, but I’d been too afraid to embrace it. This time, I didn’t fight. I let go of my fear, my guilt, my shame. There was darkness inside me. He had put it there, and I would no longer deny it. The volcra, the nichevo’ya, they were my monsters, all of them. And he was my monster too.” - Alina

Na razrusha’ya. E’ya razrushost. I am not ruined. I am ruination.” - Genya

“I hope you weren’t looking to me to be the voice of reason. I keep to a strict diet of ill-advised enthusiasm and heartfelt regret.” - Nikolai Lantsov

“In this moment he was just a boy -brilliant, blessed with too much power, burdened by eternity.” - Alina

“Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay.” - Alina

ALL quotes in this review are directly taken from the trilogy written by Leigh Bardugo.

Cover Photo is from @booksbytheventi on instagram.


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