The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

BLOG“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina” He said. “You and I are going to change the world.”

The nation of Ravka is but a shadow of its former self, torn apart by the creation of the Shadow Fold, a section of complete darkness inhabited by monsters. To destroy it is impossible, but hope rises in the form of a young girl, Alina, whose once dormant power comes to light under a vicious attack. In the blink of an eye her life is completely changed as she is whisked away to the royal court where she is to study and learn to master her newly discovered power, under the guidance of the enigmatic Darkling. But as Alina soon learns, there are many more questions that need to be answered and  an underlying darkness that threatens.

After reading the Six of Crows duology, I was eager to read more books set in that universe so I didn’t hesitate diving into the Grisha Trilogy. I got into the flow of the story right away finding it to be an enjoyable and easy read. There is a quality to Leigh Bardugo’s writing that completely works for me and it was really pleasant to be swept into this fantastical world and to keep turning those pages. Where it all fell apart for me was the main character of Alina, who I found to be uninspiring and far too whiny. With each page it became more and more of an issue, as the hope that she would grow and evolve completely diminished. For the most part she is rather bland and I completely forgot her name while reading the first novel in the series. The most frustrating is her cluelessness and lack of common sense. I wish there had been more to her, but the effort to have a fish out of water story once she is in new and extraordinary circumstances leaves her coming across as an overly weak and naive person. Too much of her revolves around her feelings for one boy or the other. There is a great moment in Shadow and Bone where she has a realization of her own power and a moment of letting go of the past, but sadly just ends up slipping back into her patterns. Because the story is told from Alina’s point of view, it does affect the whole reading experience.

I did not buy into the connection between Mal and Alina, which unfortunately ended up being the centrepiece of large portions of the story. I did not feel the best friend vibes between these two, and often their behaviour (especially Mal) and complete lack of communication made me wonder if they had really only just met. I don’t think I am supposed to find the villain more interesting in all this, am I? 

Having the issues that I did with the character of Alina, which only grew with each page, and not buying into the Alina and Mal storyline, it is impossible to love these books. That is what overshadowed my reading experience as a whole. It was frustrating because I enjoyed the concept and actually appreciated just about every other character. The first novel, Shadow and Bone is a fairly formulaic and straightforward story that is an enjoyable, breezy read. I only wished the main character was stronger, that Mal had more of a personality, and perhaps more nuance to the villain. The second book, Siege and Storm was a slog to get through and it just became more and more apparent that we were following the least inspiring character. While I was still determined to complete the trilogy with Ruin and Rising, I had to put it down a couple of chapters in and throw in the towel. I simply could not be inside Alina’s head one second longer.

Overall, a frustrating reading experience, mainly because I was interested in the story and found numerous characters to be quite compelling. But I simply could not get onboard with the main character or a key storyline.

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