Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: June 5, 2012
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.
This year has been full of surprising books for me. This unexpected boom of high fantasies has me constantly grinning through life. We needed more books like this one in YA.
This was one of those books that pull you in and the first half is so amazing and shocking that your expectations of the second half become too elevated. While I loved the setting, the world building was rich and compelling, and Alina's character was just delightful, I wanted a bit more out of the resolution. Good thing this is only the beginning of Alina's story. I look forward to reading more of her wonderful adventures.
While the prologue is written in third person, the rest is written in first from Alina's perspective. We get to see what she sees, and that was a super wise choice when she discovers what she can do. That scene was engrossing and fantastic. i was in love with this book from there. Then we embark on this life-changing journey and deep into this dark, fascinating world of Grishas and Shadow Fold. I felt as confused and magnetized to the Darkling as Alina was, and equally torn between wanting and hating Mal.
Now, I want to address the things that this novel has that seem to be bothering some readers. This is a high fantasy novel. It does NOT take place in our world, even if some things may look or sound like they do. I think it is foolish to try to compare or demand research in a story that takes place in an invented world. You just need to accept some rules, like there's a crack in the land that was made by dark magic called the Shadow Fold just like there are dragons in Game of Thrones and gifted people with different-colored eyes in Graceling. You read the rules and accept them.
With this in mind, the novel was gorgeously atmospheric, full of gripping moments, and concepts that might or might not resonate with ours. Being Grisha means being beautiful. Beauty might not have the same standards it does in our world. Being a teenager in a different world might still mean you're insecure and facing your coming of age period.
Overall, this is a novel that sticks to its rules. A lavishly dark world we can submerge in and enjoy the ride. I surely did. And if you like this type of fantasy I'm sure you'll be more than pleased with this wonderful debut.