Second volume of the Grisha trilogy, following Shadow and Bone.
I had so many thoughts and ideas about this book. It was literally my most anticipated book of 2013. Even though I rarely buy books these days, I went out and bought this one the day it came out, and then I read it all in a single day. Then I read it again the next day.
There were a lot of good parts to the book, but I can’t say it was quite as good as Shadow and Bone. Mostly, I think, this was because I was disappointed by a few minor things:
- There is still no real confirmation of Baghra’s story. Alina is 100% certain that the Darkling is the Black Heretic, but he has never confirmed it, and every time she brings it up, he talks about lies and treason. She is taking the word of a woman she barely knows, and just assuming Baghra is right and truthful. There is no proof, and it’s possible Alina is destroying so many things by believing those lies with all her heart. At this point, I’m really worried that those things will just turn out to be true, with no real proof. Nothing in this book contradicts it, even as nothing confirms it. No new information, no new knowledge, and that’s frustrating!
- We rarely see the Darkling in this book at all. I really wanted to know more about him and his motivations. He’s obviously not a good guy, but for some reason, I still want to trust him. I still don’t believe Baghra’s allegations, especially after her admission that her motivations were less than altruistic. I also still believe he really loves Alina, even if he’s forcing himself to shove that down, and even if he really doesn’t want love her. I don’t believe he’s a good person, or can be a good person, but I do believe he’s more human than he’s presented.
- I got frustrated with all the things that remain unsaid between Alina and Mal. Alina never explains to him that for years, she held her power inside, checked, even though it was destroying her, just to stay with him. Maybe if he’d known that, he’d be a little more forgiving of her plan of action in this book, and understand that she has no intention to leave him even after getting all her amplifiers. There are more examples, but that’s one of the most frustrating for me.
- I want MORE. Some of this is just the nature of a trilogy, but I’m frustrated that a full second book in, and I still know nothing more about the Darkling’s motives, about the Apparat, about Baghra, etc.
Those are the big ones. Still, that’s not to say I didn’t love the book. I gobbled it up. I especially loved Nikolai/Sturmhund – he’s one of my favorite characters so far, and I love that Alina now has three supposed love interests even though she’s only really interested in one. Nikolai was just so much fun to read. I also love that all the Grisha came together, and watching Alina grow – in both good and bad ways – as a leader.
Lastly, there are a lot of little silly references in this book that make me wonder if the author likes a lot of the same things I do. Nikolai seems in many ways like Captain Jack Sparrow. Mal’s fistfights remind me of Far and Away. The Zemeni jurda trade/use is nearly identical to the Yemeni qat trade/use. There are lines that are reminiscent of lines from Harry Potter, and the good/evil way that the Darkling is presented reminds me of how Rowling presented Snape. Lots of things like that. It makes me wonder how many other things, from Bardugo’s own life, are scattered throughout the novel. I adore that!
So even though this wasn’t as great as the first book, I am really looking forward to Ruin and Rising. And frustrated that I have to wait at least a year to get it!!!
ETA: WAIT!! I have a theory – not sure why I didn’t see this before! Maybe the Darkling IS the Black Heretic, but he wasn’t trying to get some dark power when he created the fold. It said, in this book, that the fold was created when the Black Heretic tried to recreate Morozova’s amplifiers. Maybe, the Darkling was once a Sun Summoner – a very rare form of Grisha. Maybe he was trying to unite the amplifiers, or recreate them, or something, and the fold was formed. Maybe he lost his power to summon the sun, and instead gained the power to gather darkness. The sun in eclipse – his symbol. He keeps telling Alina they are unique. At the end of the book, Alina can no longer call forth light, despite her amplifiers. I think she has become another Darkling, just as he was once a Sun Summoner. Not sure how Baghra fits into it, being able to cast darkness as well, or why Alina hasn’t considered that if the Darkling is hundreds of years old, how old Baghra must also be, and I would still love to see proof of whether or not the Darkling is actually the Black Heretic, but I’m almost sure he was a Sun Summoner at one point.