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?
This book for me was an exceptionally easy to read – I ploughed through the entire thing in about 4 hours. I did not want to put it down. It has all the typical elements of a ya fantasy but there’s enough depth and world building to make this book a little something more. However I felt like the book was TOO stereotypical in some aspects and the plot didn’t really surprise me, particularly the ending which I felt was a bit obvious. I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it either.
The main character is Alina who grew up an orphan and at the start of this book has joined the Army with her best friend from the orphanage Mal. Alina is described as being spotty, too skinny with mousy brown hair. She does not think of herself as pretty. Apart from her slight obsession with her looks and other people’s, and that she has feelings for Mal but is attracted to the Darkling there’s not much else you get to know. Mal was also an orphan who grew up to be really handsome and kind of a ladies man. Mal is popular while Alina was not and in the Army he is a tracker, one of the best if not THE best and again that’s all I really know. See a pattern? Mal and Alina’s main personality traits seem to be their feelings for one another.
The Darkling on the other hand was by FAR the most interesting character. It’s such a cliche to be into the whole dark and deadly thing but I don’t care. The Darkling has his own plans and motivations but I think the most interesting thing for me was he falls into a morally grey area. He’s bad but with good intentions. He was the only character for me with any real complexity and his characterisation makes the book more than just another ya fantasy.
One of the main things I didn’t understand was why this book bothered to take inspiration from Russian culture at all? Apart from the occasional word I couldn’t pronounce I felt like this book had very little to do with Russia. I think this book should have committed properly to the influences of Russian Culture or abandoned the theme entirely. Sprinkling the book with occasional Russian words felt like a bit of a lame attempt to make the book stand out.
That said Leigh Bardugo’s writing style was engaging and I think for a ya fantasy it’s not bad. Hopefully in the next books Alina and Mal grow more as characters and I get to see a whole lot more of the Darkling.
Rating: 3/5 stars