Okay, so let’s start with the one and only: Shadow and Bone.
First off, this book definitely wasn’t as bad as some reviews led me to believe. I know my rating doesn’t seem to reflect that sentiment, but that’s largely due to the fact that there were several things I liked, yet didn’t manage to love, and several things I disliked, yet never truly hated.
Let’s start with the things I liked.
I really enjoyed the writing style and as this is only Bardugo’s debut novel I’m sure it’ll only improve from here. I found it enticing and captivating, which is ideal for any fantasy novel. Second, I guess we can talk about the Darkling, which is probably the word I most heard in association to this trilogy. I can definitely see why there is such a large debate surrounding him. Honestly, I think he makes a great villain. I think where things start to get muddled is when you start to think of him as a great love interest , which I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall into a grey area once or twice. However, I will say it’s difficult to make an enemy both repulsive yet attractive, and personally I found that Bardugo succeeded in both. Out of everything in this novel/world the Darkling was the most developed component.
Now onto the things I disliked, which is a bit more expansive than what’s above, but that’s only because it’s easier for me to pinpoint what I didn’t like as opposed to what I did and for that I’m sorry.
Let’s start with the world. There’s so much potential there for Bardugo to do great things, which I’m told she does with the spinoff duology, but the matter of opinion is that it’s hard to appreciate a world you’ve been thrust into rather than stepped into. There were times throughout my reading that I wondered if I had picked up a sequel instead of the beginning, which isn’t ideal when embarking on a series.
Second, there’s the issue of Alina. For someone whose perspective I read from for 300+ pages I can’t tell you much about her. She was a flat main character whose personality seemed almost nonexistent. It read to me like a choose your own adventure novel, and by that I mean that you’re supposed to ignore her lack of three-dimensionality in favor of inserting yourself into the story. However, I’m the type of reader who needs a connection with the MC, especially if everyone’s falling for her while I’m left wondering why?
Then, there’s the pacing. I felt like there was a vast passage of time for a novel of this length. I didn’t like how in a matter of pages months could go by. It stilted the development of plot and instead left me underwhelmed and confused.
Lastly, there’s the love factor. Now, I’m not opposed to romance in a fantasy world. In fact, in the beginning of the story I anticipated it! That being said, almost all the fun in romance is exactly that: the anticipation. By cementing (and by that I mean a physical action) a romantic relationship in just the first third of the book, and then another in the last third, the author throws away her chance for readers to anxiously await the development of romance in later sequels. Instead, what she achieves is a half-attempt at fantasy drowned in flimsy romances. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I do feel I would’ve grown to love the romance aspect of this trilogy had the relationships been more spaced out.
Overall, there were some tropey aspects to this novel, but there was also a large compulsion to keep reading. That’s no easy feat for an author (whether debut or not), and that is the primary reason why I not only finished Shadow and Bone but also why I will keep me reading the sequels. Well, that, and the Darkling.
Now, moving onto Siege and Storm, which is where things start going downhill…
I don’t even know where to begin.
Actually, no, that’s a lie. I know exactly where to begin: I didn’t like it. Plain and simple. This book was a bloated mess of fluff over characters I didn’t care for. Just think about that for a moment. How would you feel reading a 400+ page nonexistent plot over characters you feel apathetic toward? That’s like reading about every trip Umbridge made to the grocery store in a year.
I know this is harsh, but I’m honestly so incredibly frustrated. Absolutely nothing happened! The plot was maybe there for the first 10 pages and then the last ten, but that 400 page mess in between? It’s just packing ship peanuts. Honestly, part of me wonders if the author was aware of every flaw within this book, because it seems like every issue I had she roasted herself over it first.
“I’ve never met a man who can say so much without saying anything at all.”
Hmmm, was this a novel review?
“‘You know, for two people with a love eternal, you’re awfully insecure,’ Nikolai said”
Because ladies, gents, and non binary friends that’s exactly what this book was about. The whole will they won’t they , but Malina edition. Alina gets insecure about Mal for 100 pages, then Mal takes over (bc sharing is caring) and gets insecure about Alina for the next 100 pages. You honestly can’t convince me there was an overarching plot that didn’t involve a lover’s quarrel.
The thing that frustrates me especially is not only is this a filler book, but I can see what Bardugo is trying to do. The added angst should build suspense over this so called romance, but honestly all it manages to do is turn me off. Nothing is less shippable than two dweebs thinking they’re grown and getting jealous over every single little thing. That’s not romance and it sucks that it’s being sold that way. If your partner acts that way in real life please do yourself a favor and dump him.
You can’t make me ship a pathetic excuse of a romance/male protagonist. In fact, you know what Mal means in Spanish? Bad. And that’s exactly what this romance/love interest is.
I guess as a final point we can talk about this beautiful contradiction said by the one and only Alina:
“Tears were beginning to blur my vision…but I couldn’t let them see. The Sun Summoner didn’t cry…”
THEN WHAT HAVE I BEEN READING ABOUT FOR THE LAST TWO NOVELS?
That’s it. Rant’s over. I know you may be wondering why I’m reading a series I’m obviously not enjoying. Well, I really did think I would, or at least I was hoping so. I’m always hearing rave reviews about the Six of Crows duology, and with all this hype surrounding King of Stars it seemed like the perfect time to delve into the Grishaverse. However, the process has been a lot less fun than I thought it’d be.
Finally, my friends we reach Ruin and Rising:
Look, I could sit here and write a cohesive review, but instead I’m gonna talk about the travesty everyone seems to be too COWARD to address: These thirsty grisha drink tea in a glass.
Listen, I’ve taken a lot for this trilogy, but this is where I draw the line. I turned a blind eye in Shadow and Bone, even cringed through the pain in Siege and Storm, but it’s book three (the finale mind you) and these dumb lovesick grisha have the AUDACITY to continue drinking tea in a glass?
I know what you’re gonna say, “It’s 2019, people should have the freedom to drink their beverage of choice in whatever dishware they desire.” But no, I will not (cannot) conform to this insanity. You can drink tea in a cup, a tea cup, in a mug if you like, but not a glass. That’s it, PSA is over.
Okay, but getting real now. Obviously, my rating does not reflect my discomfort over their tea habits (however atrocious they may be). I’ve found that most of my problems with this series I’ve already expressed at length, perhaps a bit too much, in my reviews of earlier installments. Really, any new problems I have are that the ending seemed too convenient and dragged a lot. Personally, the whole resurrection of a certain character felt like lazy storytelling and honestly quite impossible (yes, impossible not improbable). As for the dragging portion, that might be bc I don’t care for any of the characters?
Except Nikolai of course.
Overall, I think this should’ve been a duology if not a standalone. The second book was completely unnecessary and held no real substance. Although, I seem to be in the minority here in thinking the finale was better than the sequel. The thing is, as cool as the whole “darkness versus light” concept may sound, there’s not a lot of substance there. You can’t make a good fulfilling series out of a power that offers no room for growth. Like, what is she going to do shine brighter?