- First published in 2012 by Henry Holt and Company
- Format: Paperback – Published in 2018 by Orion Children’s Books
- Reading Time: 5 exciting days
- Six of Crows duology was one of my favourite books of the previous year so I’m eager to start the year out with another Leigh Bardugo book which also slots nicely into the GirlXOXO Monthly Motifs reading challenge for this month.
- Unlike Six of Crows, this book is told from only one point of view but I think that’s a good thing for this book. It means we can see Alina’s character develop without any distractions. She’s an orphan at first taken in by a philanthropic lord and ostracised by all the others until Mal befriends her. The pair of them join the army where he becomes a tracker and she a cartographer’s apprentice and, as the story starts, they are about to cross the Unsea, a terrifying sea of darkness and deadly monsters. She’s a bit of a smart mouth but also inherently shy and afraid of standing out. Which does make the sudden emergence of rare powers somewhat of an inconvenience. In some ways, she is a typical YA protagonist but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad character. She comes out with some very good quotes and she’s very likeable, as is Mal.
- Magnificent descriptions of the obscene opulence of the palace and the varying landscapes. The best part was the snowy far north as they track down the stag from the cover. I won’t say why they’re hunting it because that’s a big spoiler but I love wintry locations and this makes it the perfect book for the reading challenge.
- Perhaps, there isn’t as much world building as Six of Crows and, if you’re not familiar with the world or the Grisha magic system, it can leave one feeling a little lost. It does give you enough information to get by, though, such as how Alina harnesses her powers and how much she has to take in at once to be on par with the other Grisha, including history and brutal physical training.
- Tending a bit towards the usual YA tropes around the middle as Alina is swept away into an elite institution, comes to terms with the fact that she is indeed special, rises in popularity in the Little Palace to the disgust of the existing queen bee and gets drawn into a relationship with the mysterious but seemingly affable Darkling which anyone could seen coming a long way off but it thankfully doesn’t stay that way. It veers away from predictability in the third part with a genuinely surprising revelation and a voyage away from the beaten plot path into the unknown.
- Unfeignedly sweet relationship between Alina and Mal that neatly averted the exasperating miscommunication jeopardy tropes so many other romances fall into. I was also charmed by Genya who acts as a genuine friend and always knows when to lighten the situation or give some excellent advice. She might be my favourite character in the book and the bonus content only enhances that.
- Officially one of the first books in a very long time that really grabbed me in the last half. I honestly didn’t know where it would go and it looked like all hope was lost. I really didn’t want to put it down. I spent the rest of the work day with my mind on tenterhooks until I could get back into it again. It’s rare that a book does that to me nowadays and it’s part of the reason why it got the rating it did.
- Unpredictable action-packed ending that will take you by surprise and was definitely an excellent pay-off to the build up. It set up the next book nicely without making the book just a set up for the next one too.
- Selections of bonus content were a welcome addition as it gave lots more detail to things only hinted on and answered a few questions the book left unanswered. Bonus content very rarely does that and I’m glad it was there. I’m excited to get to the next book and to check out the TV series when it comes out.
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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