But regardless of all that, I was sucked in to the world Bardugo created. The best thing about the novel is the characters. I got easily connected with them and invested in the story, which is saying something since I've been in an awful reading slump.
Alina Starkov, our protagonist, is a mapmaker/soldier in the First Army of Ravka. For decades, Ravka has been cursed with the Fold; this dark vastness where evil creatures lie. The Fold pretty much surrounds Ravka, cutting it off from the outer world. And crossing the Fold? It is scary and there's a very good chance you could die. Which is what almost happens to Alina's childhood friend, Mal, except she saves his ass by conjuring this huge ray of light, which subsequently kills the evil creature.
Enter: The Darkling. Leader of the Second Army, he sees Alina as the ray of hope for destroying the fold and ending people's misery. And so the story begins; Alina is snatched from her old life and thrust into a new, better world.
I understand why people don't like this book. Actually, if I had read this review a couple of days ago, I would have decided this book wasn't for me. Then why did I like it? I'd say this has to do with the characters; the Darkling in particular. Apart from being incredibly handsome, the way Leigh wrote him made me feel his power, and how influencing he might be. He was effortlessly imagined in my mind. Another thing that I really liked was the dialogue. Some scenes in this book are like movie scenes, which I have only encountered before with Blood Red Road. You know the show-don't-tell? Yeah, Bardugo does that really well.
The Darkling has been flooding my timeline (not personally, although that would be awesome). People who read this book fall in love with him, and it's not hard to know why. I, personally, was predisposed to love him because a) I have a soft spot for villains, and b) because manipulative characters are the reason I read books. I know it's not the first time that a villain is romanticized, but it is done really, really, good this time. At the end of the book, I was confused as to whom I was rooting for, I wanted characters to die and live at the same time. I both hated and loved them. This confusion is what made this book what it is. I don't like purely good vs. purely evil plot line. It never happens in real life. There's always a grey area in between, and for a good portion of the book, that was were I was. Oh, and I'm not speaking about the love triangle, but the overall war at Ravka.
But speaking of the love triangle, was it miserably bad? No. I actually quite liked it. The most important thing for me is to understand why characters fall in love with each other, which rarely happens. But I understood why the Darkling might be attracted to Alina even though she repeatedly mentions how plain and not pretty she is (another reason I wanted to smack her on the head). The Darkling is a man of power, and Alina is talented and powerful. She had moments when she was genuinely funny too, which I liked.
And Mal, the other side of the love triangle, must be one of most confusing characters I have ever read. I loathed his bones for the first half of the book, and then changed my mind, and then changed it back.. and then again..
I don't have anything coherent to say about him, so let's move on.
The world building is actually quite good. The world is inspired by Tsarist Russia in the 1800. While some of the dialogue felt way too modern to resemble the 19th century, I didn't mind it that much. I also liked the way Magic works, and how the Grisha army operates and the different kinds of Grisha.
This is one of the lighter fantasies out there. While the plot itself is dark, and focuses on war and victory, romance is a big part. Also, a good portion of the book deals with court drama, and the occasional mean girl. It was fun to read though. I connected with the characters, and I was immersed in the story and the world Leigh created.
Also, here's something random: Did any of you guys notice the thank you page to bloggers at the very last page of this book? It's so freaking cute! The blogs' names are laid out in the same drawing of the cover
Did you agree with the Darkling's plan?
As much as I hate to say this, there was a while there where I saw where he was coming from. I mean seriously, Ravka has been surrounded for like decades, making it's opponents much stronger. What will happen when the folds go down? Maybe the Fjerdans and Shuhan would decide they want a piece of the cake that is Ravka, you know?
While killing innocent civilians was not a very gentle move, I think holding the Fold as a mean of power against the other countries is important.
Did you like Alina?
As I said, Alina had her dumb moments. Showing her abilities when a man was trying to harass her? Didn't she have a knife? Like why reveal yourself when you can give him a little shiner on his face? Also, although it turned out to her favor, I don't think she should have waited before killing the deer.
And were your feelings as confused about Mal as mine were?
I already said, I don't have coherent words to describe him. I both hate and love him. Deal with it.