Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Length: 422 pages
Read Date(s): May 19, 2021 – May 21, 2021
The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
***This review contains major spoilers. Do not read further if you haven’t read the book! You’ve been warned. ;)***
First of all, I just want to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading this trilogy. The books were not perfect and things didn’t always go the way I wanted them to, but the story and world were fascinating and enjoyable. I didn’t realize how much I came to care about the characters until I finished the books and there was no more story to read. The author did a great job creating lovable (and hate-able) characters, which kept me invested throughout each of the books. I was worried I would not enjoy the books since I had seen some really harsh reviews, but I’m happy I made the decision to read them. And I’m really looking forward to the author’s other outings in the Grishaverse.
I loved the first half of this book. There were so many great moments. I was intrigued by Alina toying with the Darkling by using the power he used to tormented her in the previous book. The return of Nikolai had me smiling from ear to ear. Mal was less Mal-like and actually had some really likeable moments. The new locales were interesting, and the conflict with the Apparat was an insightful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of faith and organized religion. There was a lot to like even if the pacing was a bit slow at times.
Although I liked his character much more in this book, Mal’s abrupt change in personality seemed odd to me. I understand they were underground for at least a few months, but that still seemed a bit quick to have such a drastic personality shift. I wish there had been a little more development of the change in him from jealous and petty boyfriend to dutiful, faithful protector.
There were some powerful scenes in this book that made me feel so many things. A lot of what happened with Nikolai and Baghra broke my heart. Genya dealing with her scars and standing up to the king were beautiful to read. The sacrifice Alina made at the end to defeat the Darkling was gut-wrenching. The role of loneliness, fear, and traumatic persecution in the Darkling’s story, and the inevitable ending of his arc, were poignantly tragic. The author really did a fantastic job of creating a very human villain, and, like Baghra, I so badly wanted to see him be redeemed despite the terrible things he did. I was also struck by how this book, and his story, ended with mercy, although a different kind than the ending with the stag from the first book. His anguish jumped off the page during those last scenes, and his death, in my opinion, was an act of mercy that halted his torment and endless isolation.
All that being said, the second half of the book did not go the way I expected or wanted. I wanted to see an epic showdown between light and dark, and the ending didn’t really give me that. It felt a bit anticlimactic. Alina completely losing her powers was another aspect I disliked. It seemed almost like all the character development I loved in the last book was thrown out the window so she could have a country life with Mal. Although, I did like the message of the power being dispersed among the people; I just wish she would have been able to keep some of it. Despite not getting what I wanted, the ending made sense. It wrapped up many of the story lines well and set Nikolai up to have some (hopefully) good stories of his own in future books. The plot twists tied together clues from the previous books, and I enjoyed the deepening of the history and lore of the world they provided.
Overall, I liked the book and the trilogy as a whole. That author was great at creating characters that evoke emotion and built an interesting world for them to live in. While I hoped for a different ending, what we got made sense and tied up loose ends well even if it wasn’t completely satisfying. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.