Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
Age Range: 12+
Pages: 358 (hardcover)
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Leigh Bardugo intricately weaves a unique and enjoyable fantasy novel in a world that draws itself out of a Russian fairytale. The main characters Alina and Mal are orphans, are raised by a kind duke who charitably raises them up on his estate. As children, Alina and Mal are tested for magic by Grisha, an army made of magicians who can manipulate flesh, air, fire, water, steel, and even darkness. Alina and Mal are not tested as Grisha and they grow up. Mal becomes a handsome flirtatious tracker and Alina, a cartographer in the 1st army. The two best friends seemed to be destined to live mundane lives, each starting to drift into their separate paths. However, Alina and Mal’s lives are changed forever when their regiment is ordered to travel over the Shadow Fold, which is filled with hungry creatures named volcra. Alina discovers a power within in herself when the boat she and Mal are on are attacked. Alina’s new found power makes her the most important person in the entire country and she is whisked away to be protected by the Ravka’s Darkling, the most powerful Grisha there is. Alina is separated from Mal, and she tempted by the allure of the riches of the palace, power, and the handsome Darkling. The story is not without its twists, though, Alina shifts through secrets to uncover who really is by her side.
This novel deeply resonated within me in certain parts. Alina wants to be more than just ordinary and to be loved, this reflects many human desires. Furthermore, I really appreciate the entirety of the world that Bardugo has created. There are separate cultures, languages, customs and superstitions for the background of this novel.
There is a strong theme of good versus evil throughout the novel. Bardugo tries to explore the idea that someone is never truly bad or good. What is true is that power corrupts.
As much as I enjoyed this book, Leigh Bardugo spends too much time describing a scene when sometimes all you need is dialogue or action. For an example, Alina has a very slow development as a character, she spends a very long time trying to find a way to access her powers before the story finally progresses.
There is a second and third book, however, Leigh Bardugo closes the 1st book so nicely that this novel could stand alone. 2nd and 3rd book: Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.