Next up: “Shadow and Bone”, “Siege and Storm”, and “Ruin and Rising” by Leigh Bardugo.
The first series to be reviewed! “Shadow and Bone” was Ms Bardugo’s debut novel, the first set in her ‘Grisha-verse’ and the first in the Grisha Trilogy. It was followed by “Siege and Storm” and then “Ruin and Rising.” Ms Bardugo has also written companion short stories for the trilogy which expand and flesh out the world in which the books take place. A new series set in the same ‘verse has recently begun with the release of “Six of Crows” in 2015.
All of the books take place in an alternate universe where magic– the Small Science, in which practitioners can manipulate matter on a molecular level– exists. The story is largely set in Ravka, which was inspired by Tsarist Russia. At some point in the past, Ravka was rent in two by magic, creating an area of magically-induced darkness filled with terrible creatures that divides the land into east and west. The Fold also separates the Ravka’s sea-ports from most of the rest of the country, which creates many political, economical, and social problems. The Fold can only be crossed with the help of the Second Army, the magic-using Grisha led by the powerful ‘Darkling.’
The Grisha are divided into three groups: the Corporalki–Heartrenders and Healers– who manipulate enemies’ and patients’ bodies. The Etherealki– Squallers, Inferni, and Tidemakers– who manipulate air, fire, and water respectively. And the Materialki–Durasts and Alkemi– who manipulate inanimate things like steel, glass, textiles, blasting powders, etc.
“Shadow and Bone” begins with the main character, Alina Starkov, a soldier in the First Army along with her childhood friend Mal, preparing to cross the Shadow Fold as a part of a military convoy. As they cross, however, they are attacked by the creatures of the Fold and Alina discovers she harbors a previously unknown power. She is swept away to be inducted into the elite magic-using Grisha and learn to wield her power. The Darkling has great plans for her, but the Grisha also hold many secrets which may be disastrous for Ravka. “Siege and Storm” continues Alina’s growth as a Grisha and her quest to attain Morozova’s relics, which will enhance her power and may be the key to saving Ravka. And “Ruin and Rising” wraps up Alina’s story in a final, desperate war.
The Grisha Trilogy uses a lot of typical YA tropes, such as a plain, unassuming protagonist who sudden possesses great power. There’s also the typical love-triangle. My opinion of the books suffered for that, a little, but I found the setting of a pseudo-Tsarist Russia very interesting and it helped me overcome the wearying YA homogeneity. Also Nikolai. He was incredibly amusing and was probably my favorite character, honestly. Actually, I never was particularly impressed with the main character; I found the people she was surrounded with to be more compelling. Perhaps that was by design– give a sort of ‘blank’ main character that the reader could inhabit and experience the book through? Either way, there were a number of really great characters, and they really elevated my enjoyment of the series.
The Grisha are an interesting magic system. I’m always down for explaining magic through science, so it tickles me that the magic is called the ‘Small Science’ in the Grisha-verse. It’s also interesting that their powers make them a sort of social elite class, as well as soldiers. Alina’s power also makes her into a political pawn, in that it makes her extremely popular with the common people, there-by giving whomever she supports the support of the people as well. There is a certain measure of political maneuvering in the series on top of the action-adventure of fighting a war.
Overall, I thought the world-building and the cast of characters were enough to overcome the trope-y downfalls of the series, and I enjoyed the trilogy.
There are some unwanted surprise kisses, but that’s about it.