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.
In my First Impression Friday, I predicted that I would be giving this book stars. I am happy to say I think that this book was, indeed, worth those stars.
Alina Starkov, apprentice mapmaker, is about to enter the Shadow Fold with her regiment, and she has every right to be scared. The Fold cuts the nation of Ravka in two, an expanse of darkness filled with monsters known as volcra that prey on humans who venture inside. Not everyone makes it back out.
When her regiment is attacked, Alina uses a power she never knew she had to save her best friend and drive back the monsters. Suddenly, she is singled out by the Darkling, leader of the magical group of Grisha, who believes she is the chosen one with the ability to save Ravka from the Fold that has weakened it for so long.
She is taken away from her regiment and best friend (Mal) to train as a Grisha, but the way ahead is not clear. As she struggles to accept and control her newly discovered magic and fit in with the other Grisha, she learns secrets that make her doubt what exactly she is training her magic for.
The universe was the main reason why I ended up liking this book. Magic has always been a big obsession for me, so it was nice to have the Grisha’s magic explained and learn about the different things that could be done with it. I thought it was well incorporated into the universe, such as in the use of sandskiffs, which are boats propelled across the sand by wind generated by Grisha.
While not particularly twisty or suspenseful, this was still an enjoyable read. Unlike Leigh Bardugo’s books in a later duology, Six of Crows, with its dark grit and constant suspense, the plot of this book steadily advanced towards one point. It wasn’t hard for me to predict what was about to happen, or why (except for the main plot twist, which did have some surprise).
Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of the romance. The book was marketed as a romance, but I couldn’t get into the relationship between Alina and the Darkling. It felt shallow to me, based too much on lust and on the Darkling being “that mysterious one”. I feel like this might have partially been the intent of the author (maybe?) but whether it was intentional or not it just wasn’t for me.
I did, on the other hand, enjoy Mal and Alina’s interactions a bit more, but they did not take up as much of the book.
If you’re looking for a book with cool worldbuilding and a plot that isn’t too stressful or hard to follow, pick this up.