Despite all they hype, I wasn't sure I'd like this book. But of course, the exquisite prose of John Green won me over from the first page. I'm not reaDespite all they hype, I wasn't sure I'd like this book. But of course, the exquisite prose of John Green won me over from the first page. I'm not really into books about cancer patients and people with terminal illnesses, but Green handles the subject matter with such brutal yet beautiful honesty that I found it utterly captivating. I'm not a cryer. I simply don't cry often, so I didn't think I'd cry about this book. I knew I'd be sad, but I didn't have any idea how completely distraught I'd be at the end of this story. It hit me like real solid grief does. Not the few tears that you would anticipate coming, but the kind of grief that hits you unexpectedly, like the ground suddenly falling away plunging you into the depths of a sunless ocean. To put it simply, I absolutely loved this book. It forces the reader to reevaluate life, ask the difficult questions, and provides an honest and intriguing view of difficult subject matter. ...more
Out of respect for a friend's adoration- no, flat out understandable obsession with this series, I have decided to take the time to review this book aOut of respect for a friend's adoration- no, flat out understandable obsession with this series, I have decided to take the time to review this book and dole out the praise its magnificence deserves. (I spent almost the whole day contemplating the book and writing up this review and I regret nothing!)
The first book, Shadow and Bone (which I will eventually have to go back and review...) was instantly riveting. It pulled me into this world of magic and Grisha. The characters, world, magic, etc. were just what I'd been craving. The plot was strong and intriguing, but it seemed like simply an opener to the series, albeit a rather grand and glorious one. But my love of the series really hinged on whether or not the second book built well upon the fantastic foundation the first had set. And to my great delight, it did all that and more.
*May contain intermittent spoilers!!! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!*
So, let's start with the characters, because they are what really bring the life to this story.
~Alina- Like most heros, she decides to step it up and aspire to do great things, but far from the dull generic heroine, she's brutally honest, fearful of her growing capabilities, actually revels in her awesome growing power, handles the whole being viewed as a saint thing rather well, passionate (but not in a blindly unintelligent way- thank the lord!), etc. I could go on for hours, but suffice it to say, she's very real and understandable, but not an over-romantic blithering idiot like most heroines in popular fantasies seem to be these days. And despite my track record for despising protagonists, I actually like her quite a bit.
~Mal- He's been put in one of the most difficult positions in literature. He's the childhood sweetheart that doesn't have the magic or abilities that his lover does, and get continually dragged along through the story despite the growing rift between them. Another character with the same plight is Gale from the Hunger Games. They both start out as these awesome, lovable characters, but become harder and harder to deal with. I liked Mal in the first book, but knowing full well the position he had been put in, I was ready to loath him in this book. That didn't happen. He understandably begins to fear Alina's growing power, he gets jealous, he sullenly gets dragged along everywhere he doesn't want to go, etc. But where most characters in his position devolve into useless, moody lumps of jealousy and resentment, He actually tries to deal with his emotion and continue living, and thus isn't quite as insufferable. Props to Bardugo! Also, he really needs to stop getting in Alina's way. She has a grand mission she wants to and really needs to accomplish and he really is making that difficult... But with all that being said- I still don't really like him and I'm dreading that like the Hunger Games, it will turn into the loathsome love triangle! Though, the Darkling is FAR from being a Peeta... (more about him later...) I can see the series ending three ways. 1.) Alina defeating the Darkling (him devolving into the stereotypical unredeemable villain) and marry ing Mal. 2.) Mal dying off in battle after his usefulness is spent (i.e. finding the fire bird), and Alina in her grief deciding to try to change the Darkling and ... succeeding. Ending with the Darkling devolving into the typical broody, sex-dripping, lap boyfriend of bad YA. Or... Alina and the Darkling battling and ending up working together to save Ravka. I truly believe that Alina's love could save the Darkling from himself and his destruction (I just hope Bardugo doesn't go too far - to the point of changing everything we love about the Darkling. He just needs to change his goals, not his character.) And somehow Mal... I don't know... un-awkwardly leaves the picture. And I really hope it's the third, but I'm really dreading that this magnificent roller coaster of epic fantasy badassery derails at one of the first two. Ok, moving on before I begin ranting and raving-
~Nikolai/Sturmhond- Easily my second favorite character. He strides into the story with a charming wit and dangerously sharp intelligence, capturing my rapt attention immediately despite being surrounded by numerous, intriguing characters. He's the perfect prince, but manages to remain lovable and intensely interesting despite that. He'll make a fantastic king. I really hope he didn't die...
~The Darkling- No contest. hands down. My. favorite. character. Surprisingly, I was unsure as to whether or not I liked him at the beginning of the first book. Everyone was afraid of him, but he seemed to be almost too nice to deserve that kind of reputation. Then his true character came out at the end, and I was obsessed. He's raw power, delightfully evil, and Bardugo shrouds him in the perfect layer of mystery. I don't feel like I can do him justice, but suffice it to say, he's one of those intensely interesting characters that tear through a story like a roaring comet leaving burns on your retinas. (kind of an odd analogy seeing as he's darkness incarnate... Just work with me ok!) There is no way you can forget him, which is why it was hard to get through the occasionally sluggish plot. He's lamentably, hardly in it! But when he does appear, there is no heartbeating or lungs-oxygen. just dies...
So, moving on! - The rest of the characters were awesome. The plot was a bit slow, lacking the Darkling, but solid. I really enjoyed her humor and intelligent plot. The parts of the books which were supposed to be funny were actually funny! And the parts of the book that were supposed to be intelligent were actually intelligent! I know it seems like a given, but you'd be surprised at how many times that is not the case. It was also really nice to have the map expand and travel outside Ravka. I can't wait for the third book (just not going to put punctuation there. None befits the intensity of emotion behind that sentence.) I thank my lovely friend Emily Duncan for introducing my to this series!...more