I binge read the whole Shadow and Bone trilogy in preparation for the release of King of Scars next week, which is one of our most highly anticipated books of the year. Before that, I had only read the first book about 4 years ago, along with my beloved Six of Crows duology. For those of you in the same boat – you may be wondering whether you should read the original trilogy before delving into the next book. Here’s my thoughts on each of the books, and I’ll answer the question at the end.
My video below summarises my thoughts on the Grisha Trilogy as well!
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Indigo on June 6th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka. Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free? The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him. But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.
Shadow and Bone is another book that has been raved about in the blogosphere, so I picked it up with high expectations. The dark fantasy storyline was intriguing and I was swept up in the world of The Grisha, but there were some things that affected my enjoyment.
What resulted during the first half of the book was frustration over the lack of a glossary. Lots of Russian terms are thrown in without explanation, interchanged with some completely new ones such as the corporalaki and the Volcra. Not being able to place half the terms threw me off from engaging with the book.
The world of Grisha as the magical elite being protected by the mysterious and formidable Darkling was unique and fascinating. Alina starts off as a solider but when she gets captured, she somehow becomes very mellow and absorbed in Grisha culture. The first half of the book depicts a vapid court life of Grisha attending dances, improving their looks using magic and Alina being drawn into the Darkling’s irresistible magnetism. Her confidence and belief in herself seemingly rests upon his approval of others and as a special snowflake, this slowly builds.
Thankfully, the second half of the book moves away from the vanity and explores more of the Darkling’s hold on the world of Ravka. Alina does eventually become more self-assured and powerful I kind of liked how there wasn’t really a love triangle, with the author changing the goal posts throughout the book. Mal is your typical sensible sweet guy who has become hardened over time but the Darkling has captured many’s hearts his mysterious, tall dark and handsome allure.
A lot of detail is given to the magical makeup artist Genya, but there is a gaping lack of detail in the appearance of the volcra, into the Shadow Fold and how it exists, and into the existence of the Grisha, their classes and powers. I wanted more of this to be fleshed out, instead of the most memorable thing from the book being the dresses, hairstyles and makeup.
Technically, Shadow & Bone was written excellently with Leigh Bardugo’s crisp, clean writing offering us a wonderful insight into the sweeping world of Ravka. I probably would enjoy the book a lot more on a re-read being accustomed to the terms, but I’ve heard Siege and Storm is even better and hopefully, I’ll fare better with that one.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thoughts after re-reading in December 2018
Still a 3 star read for me, still found Alina to be a massive snowflake and the Darkling as creepy as ever with boundary issues.
Don’t think this book has dated well with every single YA trope under the sun – the plain Jane heroine who is a special snowflake, the love triangle, the mysterious creepy guy with boundary issues, somehow picking up magical abilities so quickly & easily, somehow finding the fate of the world on your shoulders.
It still remains a 3 star read for me however as I love the Grisha world and magic system, especially now that I’m more familiar with it seeing as Six of Crows is one of my favourite series of all time. I also adore LB’s writing and will be delving straight into the sequel to prepare for King of Scars!
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Indigo on June 6th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Amazon | Book Depository | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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Darkness never dies. Alina and Mal are on the run. Hunted and haunted, but together at last, they can't outrun Alina's past or her destiny forever. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and he needs Alina to realise his dangerous plan. There are others who would like to use Alina's gift too. And as her power grows, somehow, she must choose between her country, her power, and her love - or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Laini Taylor.
Now this is what I call a sequel! I’m so glad I continued with this series after the rocky start that was Shadow and Bone. It’s as if Leigh Bardugo took everything that I loved out of the first book and amped it up here – with deeper world building, more political intrigue, and the introduction of an irresistible new character that I fell in love with.
Siege and Storm goes deeper into the world of Ravka as Alina, the Sun Summoner looks to gather forces with the Prince Nikolai, to fight against the Darkling and his army. The book primarily focuses on the political intrigue when it comes to the different parts of Ravka and it’s a sensory experience delving deep into this Russian-inspired fantasy world of magic and intrigue. I loved reading more about the Grisha orders and the different magical classes and how they are ranked amongst each other. The Grishaverse wiki on the powers of each of the Grisha helps immensely as well.
I still found Alina to be a bland character who is very much a special snowflake – how does a young girl with no experience suddenly become the leader of an army? While this is questioned by others in the book, it’s simply just accepted. I was pleased to see more character development as she becomes more confident in her powers and you can see a slight change in her demeanour and the way she wields power to command others. It makes her less of a meek character, and if anything, at least she didn’t annoy me as much here.
I’m still not big on the romance between Alina and Mal – I found Mal to be as exciting as a wet rag, and jealousy doesn’t look great on him. I rolled my eyes a lot at his behaviour and the naive way that Alina pines after him and the Darkling. There’s a lot of questioning about whether this relationship will last, given the power that Alina will wield but if it was up to Mal, things wouldn’t change between them.
Now onto my favourite character – Nikolai definitely steals the show in Siege and Storm and I think I’ve fallen in love with a new book boyfriend! He’s handsome, charming, adaptable, arrogant and super ambitious, wanting to take the throne for his own by usurping his brother, the heir. I’m really excited to read more from his perspective in King of Scars.
There’s definitely no middle book syndrome here – with more magic, political intrigue and character complexities – Siege and Storm is a marked improvement over Shadow and Bone. I adore the Grisha orders, the world building and the magic system in this series and will be diving straight into Ruin and Rising after this!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Indigo on June 19, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
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The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
Well that was unexpected. Not only was I extremely disappointed with Ruin and Rising, especially after reading and loving Siege and Storm, but I also thought it was one of the worst YA endings of all time. We went backwards in the character development for Alina, who was built up to become more powerful over time in the course of the series, and she just reverted back to her meek self in the first book.
It seems like I’m not the only one though, as I shared my frustration on Twitter which received 156 likes. Seems like a lot of people are in agreement!
Ruin and Rising must be one of the most disappointing endings to a trilogy of all time. Like if you agree 😐
— Jeann (@happyindulgence) December 28, 2018
After all that has been said and done, I thought the book threw away some of the important characters and what they had achieved and it was a waste of their characters, which was really disappointing. Also what even was Nikolai doing in this book? My favourite character was cast aside in favour of the main ship between Alina and Mal and it was oh so frustrating.
While I couldn’t have cared less about who Alina ended up with, the ultimate ending was such a disappointment and made me really salty. In fact I’m still not over my salt for this series which I think will be there for a long time to come. I felt like there was no justice or solution for Ravka by the end of it, and it was more of a story about her romance rather than anything else.
Let me say, I’m really glad I read this series this late in the game, knowing that King of Scars will be out with Nikolai’s point of view, so at least I’m not left hanging about my favourite character in the series.
With that, I’ll just leave you with my final words that I left on Goodreads:
Now I know why this is called Ruin and Rising, because my appreciation for this series has now been Ruined and the bitterness over the mediocre ending is now Rising
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
So should you read the Grisha Trilogy?
If you’re looking for a series with deep world building based on Russian mythology, based on a fascinating class of soldiers called the Grisha, then I would recommend it.
As long as you don’t mind some of the outdated YA tropes like creepy, mysterious older men who enjoy stalking their love interest, bland YA special snowflake YA heroines who somehow become worshipped overnight, and probably the most disappointing YA ending of all time.
Despite all of that, I don’t regret picking this series up because of how much I enjoyed Nikolai as a character and it was great to get some background and insight before King of Scars. It was also interesting seeing how it all began before my beloved Six of Crows duology, which you should definitely read by the way.
Have you read the Grisha Trilogy? What did you think?