The Grisha Trilogy | Book Series Review
I read the Six of Crows duology back in January 2017 and it's one of my favourite series to this day, so it only felt natural to read the trilogy that started the entire Grishaverse. But after years of wanting to read this series, it took the impending release of the Netlflix adaptation for me to finally pick it up.
In this trilogy, we follow Alina, a mapmaker of the First Army, as she's about to go on a mission to West Ravka. This requires crossing the Shadow Fold, an ancient strip of darkness in the middle of the country, filled with horrible creatures called the Volcra. But as she's making the journey, her skiff's attacked by the monsters and Alina unleashes a power that she didn't know she had, the power that could help save all of Ravka.
My main feelings towards this series were that there wasn't anything new. I know that Shadow and Bone came out nearly a decade ago, so this paved the way for a lot of the current YA fantasy, but it felt like a classic YA story. Therefore, it was quite predictable and nothing really surprised me. When you read a series that's been out for this long and is one of the most talked-about series in any bookish social media, you'll inevitably go into it with some expectations. I'm happy that mine were quite low because I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.
The writing and the world are my favourite things about this series, and I could truly appreciate how Leigh Bardugo has grown as an author. When you've read her later works as I have, and then jump into her debut, it's very clear that's she's more comfortable with her writing and exploring her stories deeper.
Plot-wise, each book in this series felt like a repeat of the previous one. They had to go on a journey while running from the bad guy and trying to make a plan to save Ravka. Every time. There was no flavour, nothing to make it stand out. I was desperate for a corruption arc, for Alina to become consumed by her power. And even if it did end on a happy note, I was hoping for something other than what we got.
What really changed this series from "Well, I quite liked it" to disappointing was the third book. My favourite character was made scarce for most of it, and the ending truly made me pissed. I had been spoiled about what happened and already didn't like it, but seeing it in the context of the book made it even worse. It felt like the easy way out, and it annoyed me a lot.
The characters all felt very generic. Besides Nikolai, who's introduced in the second book and made Siege and Storm my favourite in this series, most of the main characters aren't that interesting. Not even the Darkling, our villain and one of the most talked-about book characters I've ever known. For an anti-hero, he didn't have much going on. His motives were weak and he wasn't given the opportunity to shine. Mal, our main love interest (because this has a love "triangle") was annoying until the third book, and even then he didn't really have much personality. And Alina is just the most generic of them all. She isn't boring per se, but she lacks any real spunk for most of the books. My favourite parts were when she truly embraced how badass and powerful she was, but that didn't happen as often as I wanted it to.
I feel like I'm being very harsh on this series, but I expected every single thing I felt. I've heard opinions about these books for years and knew how I'd probably feel. So I wasn't disappointed and actually enjoyed myself while reading them. They were entertaining, fun, quick reads. But I couldn't help but think of everything it didn't have the guts to become, the places it could've gone but chose not to.
Had I read this back when I first heard about it, I would've enjoyed it immensely. But having read as much fantasy as I have, and especially having read the Six of Crows duology and Ninth House, I know Leigh Bardugo is capable of creating things more spectacular than this, even though I know this was her debut, and it's not like she can rewrite the series with her current talent. The Grisha trilogy feels like this well of potential, but it took the easy way out in all aspects and became lacklustre. Overall I'm just mad with this series because I really enjoyed reading it, but whenever we could get to a plot point I'd love, we swerved.
I'm still very excited about watching the Netflix adaptation. I feel like it'll bring new life to this world, and I'm intrigued to see how they'll blend both series together, as the storylines aren't intertwined in the books. What I'm actually dying to do is finally reread Six of Crows. Every time Ketterdam was mentioned my heart leapt and I can't wait to be reunited with those characters. This also made me want to read King of Scars and Rule of Wolves. Previously, I hadn't been interested in these books, but I'll take every bit of Nikolai I can get.
Have you read the Grisha trilogy? Did you enjoy it? I feel like I want to have deep spoilery chats about this series because I have many thoughts that can't be spoiler-free 🙈. I'm incredibly late to the party but I'm desperate to discuss these books, so if you've read them let me know. Also, if you're interested in my thoughts on the adaptation, a show review will be up in a few days.