Having a frequent craving for fantasy, action and adventure stories (with just a TOUCH of romance), I was looking forward to reading something new and gripping this summer, and consulted my one dear college friend, regular book reviewer, extremely avid reader, fellow fangirl, vlogger and overall wonderful person, Macy, on which series I should tackle next; she suggested the Grisha Trilogy, which is filled with climatic scenes, fantasy, nearly-magical, matter-manipulating Grisha, and of course more frequent– cough– “shippers’ scenes” (as I so affectionately call them.).
While the series had more romance-y bits than I had anticipated, I still for the most part enjoyed the series, with a few personal annoyance hitches once every so often, and even got two of my besties back home hooked. While I had serious doubts about the series initially (WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER ZONE UP AHEAD!!!!), it mostly evened out towards the end, and gave at least a partially satisfactory conclusion.
When I first started the series, unlike most (average) readers, I could not sit still. I was genuinely anxious, because I felt like I was constantly comparing her works, published and popular and usually GOOD, to my own, which are still a work in progress. But once I was able to sit back and relax a bit, I found myself enjoying the actual story, while not liking other parts as much. Here’s what I thought, overall, about the Trilogy:
Cons (I make it always a habit to get these outta the way, so they don’t ruin the good):
- Portrayal of faith. Ms. Bardugo, the author, has a curious way of superstitiously objectifying faith, hope, and even love in ways I find to be at least fairly despicable. God is not mentioned at all, only people praying to/idolizing “Saints,” people who may not have even been believers in Him at all but simply miracle-workers who were killed in some gory manner JUST because they performed miracles– and some of those miracles may have even been considered “abominations” (cough… Morozova… cough…), even by the book’s standards. Faith, especially in book 3, “Ruin and Rising,” is often displayed in cult-like fanaticism, which isn’t true to ACTUAL faith at ALL. Bardugo herself stated that although she was born in Jerusalem, she considers herself superstitious in some ways; this makes me wonder what her religious beliefs are (if she has any at all), and if these beliefs could very possibly be affecting her writing. We shall see what she says, if I ever get the chance to ask her that….
- Acceptance of immoral lifestyles. Although there’s nothing TOO explicit (I’d wring her sorry neck if it was otherwise), there are many, many references to sleeping around (i.e., the Darkling and female Grisha, Mal and several pretty young women), homosexuality (in “Ruin and Rising” only), blending some good and some bad together and calling it fine (granted, I both agree and disagree with her decision to avidly write good and bad in her protags; she states that no one is wholly good or wholly evil, which is something I’ve obvious mixed feelings on…), etc. What gets my goat is that both Mal and the Darkling get annoyed/ angry with Alina, the protag, for falling for the other or Nikolai, but still see absolutely NOTHING wrong with sleeping around like prostitutes themselves…. and then Alina proceeds to be the only one who seemingly feels guilty about having even remote feels for the other guy. Ugh, MEN. *heaves big, frustrated sigh* ( OK, minor rant over, LOL.) The homosexuality and her sneaking in highly leftist propagandistic themes (most LGBT ones) are the primary reason I will NOT be reading one of her more recent books, “The Six of Crows”, which is said to have even more of “sexual orientations” in it.
- The bad guy being SUPER obvious at the beginning of the story. Really, Ms. Bardugo? You expect us NOT to believe, at the very beginning, that a character legitimately titled, “the Darkling,” who can summon darkness, can slice a live man in two without batting an eyelash, and kidnaps a young woman seemingly for “the good of the country,” ISN’T up to something?? Up your game, girl.
- Often gets you to root for the LAST said guy you SHOULD be rooting for… ^ I actually kinda wrote an entire article sort of about this, a while back. While I give Ms. Bardugo kudos for making him detailed, multi-layered (in a way), with an enigmatic personality that keeps you guessing at times, it makes you really think, “Does she actually WANT me rooting for the bad guy? I mean, we see all the horrible things the Darkling’s done, all the people he’s brutally murdered, tortured, etc, and we STILL want him to basically take over Ravka and win over Alina?” We’re aware that she confessed in an interview with her editor that in fact she wanted to make him a cold, ruthless dictator that simply oozed charisma and seduction, stating that she wished to make a villain you couldn’t just dismiss; however, she admitted she was genuinely surprised to hear even one person say that all the Darkling’s actions were perfectly defensive, despite all he’d done, because his motives were at least somewhat good and he loved Ravka. Bardugo confessed that even with those as semi-motives (power-hungry motives aside), he shouldn’t get a free pass on murder and torture because of it. And yet, looking back on her creation, and how/why she created him, I can’t help shaking my head and thinking, “You brought this on yourself, sista.”
- The DETAIL. The biggest thing that impressed me was the detail in her books; the descriptions were all so deep and VIVID– especially physical descriptions, character descriptions, and even animal descriptions, but emotional ones, too. She set the scene in a land similar to tsarist Russia, and, for the most part, I think she out-did herself describing it all.
- Detailed, often multi-layered, unforgettable characters. Speaking mostly protags and antags, Bardugo’s got the gift for this too, I’ll admit. The Darkling has easily become one of my favorite-of-all-time antags, having an obvious love-hate thing for him (it got to the point where I caved in to buying a body soap that smells like him and a poster with his symbol on it off of Etsy. I think I’ve gone off the deep end. Officially.). I can really, really relate to Alina a good bit, despite belief differences, especially the parts where she feels insecure about herself and her powers, when she feels different from others, and how she feels towards the Darkling is similar to my own feelings, on some different levels (although I wanted to crack her across her head for naively falling for his game so soon, so early in the very first book. You do not get into big, black carriage and go with Mr. Creepy to the Little Palace. You do not become his little political pawn of a princess that he can dress up, parade, and use to whatever his liking. You do not– Oh, why am I bothering when she does it anyways? 😛 ), namely in “Siege and Storm” (book 2). I like Genya a lot, too (she and David are so cute, being potential opposites:3 ). I also am a big fan of Nikolai; I positively ADORE his charmingly scheming demeanor, his bantering with Alina and/or Mal, and all of his wonderfully quotable moments. I love his two powerful, yet moving personas: Pirate (or, as he prefers to be known as, “privateer” 😉 ) and prince, as well as the sporadic and oh-so-charming way he proposed to Alina in “Siege and Storm” and the comical conversation that follows shortly afterwards. I think he’s my other, secondary G.T. crush. Ms. Bardugo herself called him one of her favorite characters to write, along with the ever-bratty, stuck-up Zoya. A well-picked favorite, if I do say so myself.
- Plenty of action, adventure, and climatic scenes. The ones that got me are when (more spoilers!) Alina protected the stag in “Shadow and Bone;” the scene and confrontation in the chapel at the end of “Siege and Storm,” and the hunt for the firebird/realization what/who the real third amplifier is. The series is also not lacking in comical scenes, from Nikolai to Alina and Mal’s bantering.
- THE GRISHA. Think similar concept to ATLA benders, only… different. The Grisha are magicians of sorts; they can manipulate matter that’s already there whilst making it LOOK like magic (It’s called, “The Small Science”.). For instance, an Inferni can’t be like a firebender and summon a flame, they need combustible gases in the air, along with a flint to strike a spark. There are three orders: Corporalki (Healers and Heartrenders, who normally wear red kefta– special coats only Grisha are permitted to wear), Etherealki (Summoners– Tidemakers, Squallers, and Inferni. They all wear blue kefta. The Darkling and the Sun Summoner, Alina, also fall under this category because they can summon darkness or light, but are also in a different category all their own; the Darkling of course wears a black kefta, whereas Alina’s kefta color varies.), and Materialki (aka Fabrikators, separated into two groups: Durasts and Alkemis. Purple kefta.). Healers can heal wounds together almost seamlessly, Heartrenders can mess with people’s hearts– literally– and slow their heartbeats to put them to sleep or squeeze until it stops beating altogether (scary, I know.). Tidemakers, Squallers, and Inferni can all summon and manipulate the elements around them to their advantage, respectively ( water, wind, and fire). Durasts can manipulate solids, such as steel, rock, etc, while Alkemi specialize in poisons and liquids. Genya is a Tailor, a special type of Grisha who’s a cross between a Corporalki and a Fabrikator, but instead of making clothes, she can literally REMAKE your face (nifty for disguises), such as erasing freckles/acne/wrinkles, making your eyes a brighter/darker color, or changing your hair color. (Hence the reason she’s kind of vain.) Me? I’d love to be a Squaller… give myself “air boosts” when I run, to make myself feel like flying… air cushions beneath me in case I fall or something… blow-dry my hair quicker…. :3 #perksofbeingaSqualler
Welp, those are my thoughts overall on the series. 🙂 Feel free to comment and discuss if you’re a fan or if you’ve read the G.T. too, and let me know what you think! 😉
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