DISCLAIMER: Spoilers for the Shadow and Bone Trilogy are below. Do not read if you have not read these books.
I should start by saying that I was intending to write full book reviews for Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. What happened was I binged read both books in one night and I felt I couldn’t do a review justice as I didn’t really give myself time to reflect on the second book before I launched into the third.
One of the first things I wondered about when starting the series was why the romance hadn’t been spoilt for me yet. Bookstagram being Bookstagram all the major romantic relationships usually get spoilt by one way or another, but this didn’t happen with this trilogy and I was suspicious as to why. Obviously this could have just meant that there was no main ship or that it ended badly for the couple, but I didn’t think so. For whatever reason I got the impression people weren’t that invested in the relationship in this book and now I know why.
This trilogy set up three possible and completely different endings for Alina.
- Alina could have ended up co-ruling with the Darkling, trying to bring the Grisha back into Ravka society whilst working together to not be consumed by the power they wielded.
- Alina could have ended up Queen of Ravka, married to Nikolai in an effective political alliance that may or may not turned to actual love later.
- Alina goes with what she thought her heart always wanted and ends up with her childhood bestfriend Mal.
For me the most interesting direction was for Alina to end up with the Darkling. They had more chemistry, and I felt more in common. Just to be clear I don’t want Alina and The Darkling together so Alina could fix him and redeem him, I just felt like they two sides of the same coin. Alina would have balanced The Darkling and reading this story line for me would have been far more interesting.
The main problem I have with Malina is that Alina had to become less of herself in order for it to succeed. I think ending up with Mal the book tried to send the message that Alina was always a strong individual and she didn’t need her power to make her strong or to define her. This would be great except for the writer often described how sickly, weak and basically ugly Alina was when she wasn’t using her power and being true to herself.
That power is part of Alina and removing it at the end I think was a disservice. Particularly when you consider that Mal couldn’t stand Alina being more powerful and useful than him, several times he said he wanted the old Alina back. Which was infuriating given that before her power Mal didn’t appear to look twice at Alina and was quite happy being the popular soldier and ladies man.
The book ending with Mal and Alina reverting right back to who they where before, all the development and characterisation was lost. As a reader it was definitely frustrating to see more interesting avenues go unexplored and completely abandoned in favour of a more simple yet sweet ending.