Series Review: The Grisha Trilogy // Russian mythology and a suave villain

“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.”

Hello, bookworms! Today I’ll be reviewing the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. This isn’t something I do quite often because I usually like to review books one by one; however, I did read the trilogy as a buddy read with a dear friend on bookstagram, and now I’m inclined to do a review on the series as a whole.

So here we go.

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Just a fair warning, if you haven’t read the series, there will be some minor spoilers in regards to plot as this is a series review.

Shadow and Bonethe literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flower/5

In the middle of a war torn Ravka, our protagonist Alina and her best friend Mal are fighting for the cause against the Fold, a dark blanket that houses creatures who will tear you limb from limb. In this world, there are two types of people: Grisha, those who are born with magic; and the normal folk like Mal and Alina. Until we find out Alina is actually a rare form of Grisha and is swept under the wing of the Darkling, a charming and powerful Grisha who takes a liking to Alina. Struggling to cope with her new power and the politics of court, Alina will come face to face with some hard decisions; and with an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, she is in quite a pickle.

Things I liked about Shadow and Bone:

  • The pacing of the plot. It felt right and the timing of twists and turns were brilliant.
  • The world building. We get a clear picture of what Ravka is like. With subtle hints of Russian lore and culture, it’s wonderful and I enjoyed immersing myself in this place.
  • Alina’s character development. I liked how it wasn’t cliche – the whole ‘discovering I have powers and now I’m amazing’ trope. Alina’s development is gradual despite the culture shock she experiences, and she makes mistakes like the rest of us. What I liked most was she’s true to herself.
  • The secondary characters were brilliant. Mal and Genya were my favs in terms of supporting characters. Mal has good intentions but he’s rather dim sometimes. Genya is mysterious enough for us to question whose side she is on, and what motivates her.
  • The mystery behind the Darkling. Oh my Lord, this character drives me mad in the best way. He’s so intriguing and yet so frustrating.

Things I didn’t like about Shadow and Bone:

  • Some sections were rather hard to picture. To me, the Fold is like a giant blob of black that stretches across some vast area with some scary human-like creatures that’ll maul you. Did anyone else feel like it was unclear?
  • It’s predictable. I have to admit, I saw most of the twists coming. Nothing dramatic happens that wowed me, but it was a decent plot.

Siege and Storm – the literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flower/5

The second instalment picks up where Shadow and Bone left off. Alina and Mal are on the run from the Darkling, but with her Sun Summoner powers, she can’t run for long. With the Darkling now more powerful and alluring than before, Alina’s grasp on a normal life starts to slip as the darkness and magic of Ravka’s court draws her in. The balance of the natural world is at stake, but so is her country, her heart and her power. Will she ever have a normal life?

Okay, I was initially on the fence about this book, but now that I look back it was actually my favourite of the three.

Things I liked about Siege and Storm:

  • Alina’s character development once again, except in a direction I wasn’t expecting. Alina had always struck me as a person who wouldn’t be power hungry and selfish, but oh my god, she really does into this kind of person. It’s honestly refreshing. She’s darker, edgier, with a hint more snark and actually craves power. The inner conflict is obvious: she wants to save Ravka but she also wants to be normal.
  •  The pacing and writing style were actually perfect. I originally hated how slow the beginning was, but again, now that I reflect on it things were actually well-timed. Bardugo’s writing is so gripping and easy to read, this book was devoured in a day.
  • NIKOLAI! My fav character in this entire series is introduced in this book and please, let me explain. I love him. He is witty, clever, charming, kind and above all, sarcastic as hell and I freaking love it.
  • Even more world-building. Kudos to Bardugo for expanding this Russian world into a lavish and rich landscape that makes me want to travel there. The steampunk vibe also had me going gaga over this.

Things I didn’t like about Siege and Storm:

  • Mal. I have to say it: I didn’t like his character in this book. I understand his situation and the fact that he’s reacting in a very human way, but he honestly drained me emotionally and I couldn’t handle him. He does become broody, a bit more selfish and sometimes childish in his reactions, but he doesn’t understand the weight on Alina’s shoulders. However, Alina needed to do some trust exercises with Mal. All this tension could have been avoided.
  • The focus on politics. I’m an action kind of gal, but I do like a good mix of politics and action. This book felt like it weighed heavier on the politics aspect, which wasn’t too bad. It just wasn’t as exciting.

Ruin and Rising – the literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flowerthe literary casanova flower/5

The final instalment of the Grisha Trilogy sees the Darkling on the throne and Ravka on the brink of ruin. Alina, now worshiped as a saint, is desperate to find the last amplifier with the help of her comrades. New alliances have to be made and differences have to be put aside as she makes the journey to her old home town in search of the firebird. But as the dark secrets of the Darkling slowly unravel and the nature of Grisha power is unearthed, the stakes only rise. Alina is now the key to two futures: a peaceful Ravka or total destruction.

Things I liked about Ruin and Rising: 

  • The Darkling had me so torn between hating and loving him. And this quote from him absolutely shook me: “I will strip away all that you know, all that you love, until you have no shelter but mine.”
  • The combination of magic and science. Grisha power has always been a mystery up until this book. We get to see the depth of the power and how it can be manipulated with science. I loved this concept a lot.
  • The choices Alina had to make. The hero doesn’t always have it easy, and what I liked was the trials she had to endure and the sacrifices she has to make in order to achieve what she wants. She’s also confused about what she wants, which made it so much more entertaining.

Things I didn’t like about Ruin and Rising:

  • The lack of plot. I feel like the first half the book was slow and stagnating in comparison to the second half where everything happens all at once. Because it’s the same size as the other two, I feel like there wasn’t much room for explanation and description.
  • The secondary characters. I honestly didn’t care about any of the secondary characters. They didn’t hook me or give me reason to care. It could just be me and my lack of empathy though.
  • The ending. It’s bittersweet, but also the kind of ending had me asking “What if?”.

Overall Thoughts

This is a brilliant YA fantasy series with a unique story. Russian lore isn’t quite common, making this series so much more interesting. The main characters are great, the pacing and writing style is awesome and I love the world building. This is definitely a recommended series despite the third book being a slight let down for me.

And I’m gonna lowkey fangirl over this aesthetic I made because Alina and the Darkling was the ship I held on to throughout the whole series. Someone hold me.

What were your thoughts? Leave me a comment down below!

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