Series Review: The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Synopsis for Shadow and Bone: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and the secrets of her heart.


I’m only posting the synopsis for the first book because if I were to post the synopses for the other two I’d spoil everything. Before I dive into this review, below is a map of the world The Grisha Trilogy takes place in, for a better understanding of what’s going on.


This trilogy takes place in Ravka, a sort of alternate universe of Russia. Part of Ravaka is blocked from the True Sea by the Unsea, or the Shadow Fold. The Shadow Fold was created by a powerful Grisha known as the Black Heretic and is a rip through the land of pure darkness inhabited by evil creatures that feed on humans, known as the Volcra.

The Grisha, also known as the Second Army, are a group of powerful men and women who have mastered Small Science, the world’s magic system. The Darkling is the most powerful Grisha and is in charge of the Second Army and serves the king. The First Army are basic soldiers.

Alina Starkov and Malyen (Mal) Oretsev are best friends and orphans in the First Army, they go on a supply mission into the Fold and don’t make it very far before they’re attacked by Volcra. While they’re being attacked Alina discovers she has the power of light, which is capable of destroying the Volcra. Alina is then taken to become a Grisha and enters the world of magic and politics in the Ravka court.

Alina meets the Darkling, a powerful and mysterious Grisha who wants to use her powers to destroy the Fold. He also wants to help her enhance her powers by finding great white stag whose antlers will be turned into Morozova’s collar, a powerful amplifier for Alina’s powers…

My problem with the series:

1) The lack of world building. It’s really important when writing a fantasy series to have proper world building. I was unsatisfied with how the magic system a explained and I feel like I don’t know enough of the world’s history.

2) How cliché and predictable everything was.

3) The love triangle that turned into a love square.

4) Book one was super fast paced, book two was so boring I wanted to stab my eyes out, and book three was too much detail, not enough action. I feel like this could have easily been a two book series.

5) I felt like the name “The Darkling” was kind of silly. Why not just call him by his name? Every time I read “The Darkling” I rolled my eyes.

6) The Grisha are obsessed with beauty and alter their appearance with magic. I absolutely hate characters being all beautiful and perfect.

7) Boring “I feel out of place” girl becomes special snowflake… Does that sound familiar?

Things I liked:

1) Alina and Mal’s friendship.

2) The how evil the protagonist was.

This trilogy showed a lot of promise… I will admit, I was a bit let down after all the hype in the online book community. That’s one thing I’ve learned the past few years, don’t trust the hype of the book community.

So back to the story. The romance was nice at times, and some of the fight scenes were intense, but everything else was just… so unbelievably underwhelming. There wasn’t much character development and the lack of world building and poor made up Russian-like language bothered me to the point where it was hard for me to enjoy to story at times. Plus, I read it on Kindle and didn’t have a pronunciation guide. When I don’t know how to pronounce names, places, etc I get annoyed and confused.

I think the reason I gave books two and three such high ratings on Goodreads was because of the villain. They were just so… EVIL. I’ve never enjoyed a villain before, so that was a new experience for me… Sometimes I was even rooting for them to win. How crazy!

I will admit, the ending of book three made me tear up a bit. It wasn’t the ending I wanted, but now I realize it’s the only way things could have ended.

You can read an excerpt of Shadow and Bone here.

Overall Series Rating: tumblr_inline_nbptlpV9ce1qdokuq tumblr_inline_nbptlxaJcu1qdokuq tumblr_inline_nbptl5RKBV1qdokuq

Spoilers below!

Don’t continue reading if you haven’t finished the trilogy yet.

So the Darkling is the Black Heretic. That didn’t surprise me at all. Even if I hadn’t been spoiled last year it was basically painted in big red letters. He was so evil and extreme, I LOVE IT. He wanted to use Alina to enter the Fold safely and use it as a weapon so he could be in total control.

Sturmhond was the prince, Nikolai Lantsov… Another thing that was as clear as day. I actually reeeeally liked Nikolai and shipped Alina with him. I thought he was gone when The Darkling turned him into that creature. SO glad he recovered, for the most part. He was my favourite character.

Mal suddenly liking Alina, bleeeh. Their ending was cute, I guess… but I just… Noooo, Nikolai!

Alina lost her powers at the end caught me off guard, but I’m glad she lost them since she ended up with wet blanket Mal.


3 thoughts on “Series Review: The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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