Mysticism. Magic. Folklore. Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy is incredible in its imagery and adventure.
In Shadow and Bone, we meet Alina Starkov, a weak, pale, unobtrusive member of the cartography regiment of the Ravkan army. She and Mal, her childhood friend and fellow orphan, are about to enter the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with unseen monsters who feast on human flesh. Alina’s regiment is attacked on the Fold, comrades are murdered and Mal is severely injured. In the face of terror, Alina finds a powerful force in her that saves Mal’s, and her own, life. This power could be the key to saving her country as well – she is a rare Sun Summoner.
She is taken to the royal court to be trained as a Grisha, one of the magical, mystical elite that lives as she could only have dreamed as a young orphan. Led by the Darkling, a mysterious being with untold power over darkness and, it seems, Alina, the Grisha themselves have mystical powers, over healing, over beauty, over science. But not all is as it seems. The fate of Ravka rests on her young shoulders.
Although the story of Alina and Mal’s relationship runs throughout the trilogy, this is not just a romance. It is, at its centre, about absolute power and corruption, and how things are not always as they appear. Alina’s feelings for Mal underscore the power struggle that goes on with the Darkling, and with herself. Evil is strong. But it is not all darkness; even the Darkling has a weakness for light.
To build Ravka, Bardugo has reached back to Imperial Russia. The imagery and costumes, the names and places easily transport the reader back to a time when magic could be real and light and darkness could be controlled.
Bardugo develops the characters really well throughout the novels, and her ability to create landscapes in your mind’s eye is incredible. The Palace and the mountain retreat, the ocean vistas and flying boats, the firebird and the great white stag: you will live them as you devour the story surrounding them.
Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising work on every level. It is a lesson in power and corruption, a fantastic mystery with hidden villians and unexpected heroes, a romance with twists and turns, and a thrill ride for the reader.
This trilogy is great for anyone who loves the magic and intrigue of far away places and times.
The Grisha Trilogy is published by Square Fish.