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310 pages, Paperback
First published June 5, 2012
“Do you? That night at the palace when I saw you on that stage with him, you looked so happy. Like you belonged with him. I can’t get that picture out of my head.”
“I was happy,” I admitted. “In that moment, I was happy. I’m not like you, Mal. I never really fit in the way that you did. I never really belonged anywhere.”
“You belonged with me,” he said quietly.
“I was happy.”
“I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me we don’t belong together,” he said fiercely. He was very close now, and my heart was suddenly hammering in my chest. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”
“So don’t tell me we don’t belong together.”
“You don’t have a right to her.”
“I don’t need to think about it,” Mal shouted. “And neither does she. It isn’t going to happen.”
“At least she doesn’t flinch when I touch her,” he spat. “You don’t want me, so why do you care if she does?”
“But when all this is over, Alina, I wonder if you’ll still want me.”
He let out a bitter bark of laughter. “Do you know how much I want that? To be with you without rank or walls or anything between us? Just to be common again together?” He shook his head. “But you won’t do it, Alina.”
"I wasn’t afraid of you, Alina. I was afraid of losing you. The girl you were becoming didn’t need me anymore, but she’s who you were always meant to be.”
Mal shook his head in disgust. “I let him push me away. The meetings, the council sessions, the dinners. I let him edge me out. Just waiting, hoping that you’d miss me enough to tell them all to go to hell.”
The Actual Review
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Whelp...that was horribly disappointing...
IT WAS A COMPLETE DISASTER.
“She’s an ugly little thing. No child should look like that.”Like realllllllly ugly.
Pale and sour, like a glass of milk that’s turned.And she must be skinny, but in the malnourished-and-kinda-hot sort of way.
I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.Your Main Character must be ugly enough so that all the little children reading your novels can relate, but not so ugly that Hollywood casts a troll to play her in the movie adaption.
“Well, I don’t want to be high above all others.”Your Main Character has to come from the sticks, she has to have survived poverty and hardship.
“A thousand girls would sell their own mothers to be in your shoes, and yet here you are, miserable and sulking like a child. So tell me, girl. What is your sad little heart pining for?”It's probably best to off one of her parents - scratch that - make her an orphan.
Thanks for being my best friend and making my life bearable. Oh, and sorry I fell in love with you for a while there.So. Now that she's an ugly, unlovable orphan, what does she need in her life? A LOVE TRIANGLE!
“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina,” he said. “You and I are going to change the world.”4. Good VS Evil
With a flick of the wrist, I could slide a mirror between my fingers and... I practiced bouncing flashes of light off them and into my opponent’s eyes.Mirrored gloves - after all, you want the element of surprise, and there's no way someone beaming you in the eyes with light stronger than the sun will surprise anyone. Hence the gloves.
“Why would you care what I think?”- The key is to keep the audience on the tips of their toes.
He looked genuinely baffled. “I don’t know,” he said...And then he kissed me.
He had seen a woman, barefoot and unflinching in her doorway, face down a row of bayonets. He knew the look of a man defending his home with nothing but a rock in his hand.Female empowerment is SUPER in right now. Your humbly ugly and clumsily skinny Main Character NEEDS to be spunky, strong and a real "go-getter."
Put on your pretty clothes and wait for the next kiss, the next kind word. Wait for the stag. Wait for the collar. Wait to be made into a murderer and a slave.She ain't no damsel in distress! (expect, of course, if either Option A OR Option B are inclined to save her from a cute-but-clumsy moment! Teehee! )
Maybe I would wake tomorrow and find that it had all been a dream,But, most importantly, you MUST (and I repeat MUST) show that the Main Character is willing to kill herself over the vaguely worded Light Vs Shadow plot point.
It was time to let go. That day on the Shadow Fold, Mal had saved my life, and I had saved his. Maybe that was meant to be the end of us.If she's not willing to suicide over some slight, is your book even worth reading?
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¹ Why does it seem that almost every YA story nowadays features the first-person narrative by a teenage girl? Is that a new law?Anyway, then she finds a super-special snowlake-unique power that apparently no one realized she had, and eventually becomes all pretty and desirable and stuff. And lands herself in a boarding school/king's court full of mean girls¹ and even has several makeovers! Along the way, she unexpectedly becomes a fighting badass! And then there are two hot boys² swooning over her!
² We know she is plain because she has the ugliness-defining brown hair, a YA prerequisite for plainness. Also, she is too skinny, which apparently is a common YA flaw.
Skinny brown-haired women, ladies and gentlemen. The ugliness is overpowering, right?
³ Or, actually, that's what we're *supposed* to think. What she comes across is the OTHER S's: sullen, sulky and self-absorbed. She is also a bit stupid¹. Oh, and also specially-equipped-to-see-negatives-in-every-situation-including-perfectly-happy-times. Seriously, coming from poverty and harsh military life, she still finds the will to complain about a horrible horrible day in what amounts to the Dreamland of this kingdom because people were soooooo meeeeeeeeeaaaaaaan to her, woe!¹ Case in point for stupidity - you don't mouth off to the second most powerful person in the kingdom who you believe is capable of evil. You just don't. It does not come across as sassy but as stupid.
¹ Why is it that most pretty girls in books like these always have to be evil to the plain-Jane protagonist? Why do women writing about women tend to vilify women? (Yes, I loved writing the word 'women' three times in that short sentence.) I know, I know, there is Genya who is nice, but all other pretty women are eeeeevillll or stupid.At some point, she inevitably makes a requisite decision about self-sacrifice for a noble cause, if needed. There are declarations of undying love. She also makes big and stupid decisions for the sake of loooooovvvvvvvveeeeeeeee.
² Well, in all honesty, one of them could make centenarians look like children.
¹Speaking of getting so many Russian things wrong. Well, first of all, why do we even care? Well, the reasons are twofold and both stem from the fact that Russia is the biggest country on the planet, which means that:The titular 'Grisha' is still what makes me cringe. Every. Single. Time. It is a diminutive of a Russian name Grigori, and roughly equivalent to English 'Greg'. Just imagine you reading a story where the elite yielding mysterious powers is collectively known as 'Mike' or 'Bob' or 'Billy'. Do I need to say more?
(a) It should be pretty easy to find information about its culture and language, including a native Russian speaker beta-reader, perhaps.
(b) There are quite a few people in this world that will be easily able to spot out what you did wrong.
Also, don't give me BS about the country of Ravka not being Russia but simply being inspired by it. Bullshit. You use Russian names and Russian words in your book - therefore I will assume that Russian is indeed the language you are using. End of story.
¹My original thought that maybe in this world Russians just stopped distinguishing between feminine and masculine last names was proven wrong when there was a mention of the character who does possess a feminine name - Morozova². Therefore I must conclude that the distinction is preserved in Ravka.'Otkazat'sya' really does NOT mean 'abandoned'. It means 'to refuse'. It's a verb and should not be used as a noun. A 5-second Google translate search gives me a better version than Bardugo came up with.
²Interestingly, the character with the feminine last name Morozova has a masculine first name - Ilya. So either this world is flip-flopped in that way, or Bardugo could not bring herself to do a simple google search of name Ilya to see where it was a boy or a girl. It is NEVER a female name, despite ending in a vowel (just like Nikita is only a male name, by the way). It's particularly annoying because a 10-second google search could have spared this mistake; no knowledge of Russian culture is even necessary here!
"I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I'd catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason , just out of habit, because I'd seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I'd realize that you weren't there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I've risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me why we don't belong together," he said fiercely.
The moment our lips met, I knew with pure and piercing certainty that I would have waited for him forever.
“I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”
The Grisha seemed obsessed with emulating serf ways, right down to the clothes we wore beneath our kefta. But there was something a little silly about eating “hearty peasant fare” off porcelain plates, beneath a dome inlaid with real gold. And what peasant wouldn’t pick pastry over pickled fish? The Little Palace was a storybook version of serf life, no more like the real Ravka than the glitter and gilt of the royal court.
The Queen was beautiful, with smooth blond hair in a perfect coiffure, her delicate features cold and lovely. But there was also something a little odd about her face. Her irises seemed a little too blue, her hair too yellow, her skin too smooth. I wondered just how much work Genya had done on her.
Genya’s voice was light, but it had a funny little edge to it, and when I glanced at her, I saw that there were bright spots of color on her perfect cheekbones. I looked back through the windows to where I could still see David’s bony shoulders and messy brown hair. I smiled. If a creature as gorgeous as Genya could fall for a skinny, studious Fabrikator, there might be hope for me yet.
Our instructor, Botkin Yul-Erdene, wasn’t Grisha; he was a former Shu Han mercenary who had fought in wars on every continent for any army that could afford his particular gift for violence.
“Is this what they teach in First Army?” he sneered in his heavy Shu accent as I stumbled up a hill...
“Block!” he shouted, knocking me backward. “Faster! Maybe little girl likes to be hit?”...
But before we were out the door, [Botkin] called, “Tomorrow, little girl comes early, trains with Botkin.”
Look, I don’t care that, in the trilogy, this character is just an idea and a threatening presence who is only charming, manipulative, and treacherous. And yes, I understand that he is guilty of unforgivable crimes. But you know what? I don’t care. Condemn him, punish him, kill him, I’m not gonna stop you—he deserves it. I just don’t care because doing that is simple and what everyone does. What I care about is understanding the humanity, loneliness, craving, anger, vengeance, ambition, vision, and hope smashed together in an obsessive, apathetic control-freak that Leigh Bardugo did not explore and develop because, you know, he is a horrible piece of shet who you should not love or relate to (meanwhile, watch me nod and say yup this dude could very well be me if the circumstances of my upbringing were a little different). I could write an essay on why this is my favourite character in the Grishaverse, but I’ll leave that for later. The point is that the book held back on the potential.
The show, though, has no such hesitations. The developer Eric Heisserer, like my favourite author George RR Martin, cares less about sides and more about conflicting, layered stories which immerse you and make you understand all sides. And Ben Barnes, the actor, is all about finding and delving into the light parts of the dark and the dark in the light—his interviews and performance made it clear he is his parents’ son (two psychiatrists, yes) and the perfect choice for this role. Honestly, episode seven is one of my two top episodes of the show (along with five).
Also, he looks older than Alina and you can see the whole wtf-are-you-doing-be-careful-that-dude-is-old-girl on the screen, which doesn’t brush the issue under the rug.
That’s it. That’s honestly it. The show did such a good job with fleshing out but him and his bond with Alina that I just wanted to hug them and take them across the world so they could be safe and happy together. He doesn’t blame her over everything and demand she explain how she could betray him like that and their reunion is changed to make it less YA-angsty and more mature and beautiful. Plus, he gets his own heartbreaking adventure and I just wanted to protect him and his friends every step of the way. I can’t believe this happened.
I don’t think that requires more explanation, but I want to add that the fact that she was the one who chose to get on the skiff, made the first move on the Darkling, chose to enter the fête sooner, and aided in her own kidnapping was just perfection. She’s certainly a ray of sunshine.
Making Alina half-Shu and exploring the discrimination and the person she is because (and despite of) the pain of the hate is incredible and so heartwrenchingly real and my heart was in pieces. Not to mention the many adorable gay boys. And the drag queen. I’m just saying.
This is definitely the most significant and amazing alteration to the story. All the new material and the ways it took from the dynamics and themes of Six of Crows and made it part of the original tale were managed so perfectly I want to scream.
Nina’s lewd, in-your-face charm stole my heart. Matthias’s closed-yet-open heart bled me dry. Kaz’s cunning, cynical brain and secret warmth made me want to die. Inej’s steadfast faith and fearlessness and the story of her knife made me want to curl up and cry. Even Zoya had early development. And Jesper, oh Jesper stole the show—there are no words for this wild, hilarious, adorable, careless, gunslinging puppy. Thank you for giving me this, Kit Young.