THE GRISHA TRILOGY - by Leigh Bardugo

( A huge thank you to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me these beautiful books in exchange for an honest review )

I first read this trilogy last year and really enjoyed it. When Pan Macmillan were kind enough to send me these new editions, I jumped at the chance to re-read them. Since I've already done separate reviews for each book, however, this post is an overall "review" of the whole series, in a different review format. Hope you like reading it :)

Bardugo is one of my favourite authors. The amazing thing about these new editions, apart from the gorgeous covers, is also the awesome bonus content inside. There are interviews with Leigh about her writing process and this specific story and characters, a sneak peek of Six of Crows, and lots more. Please read this trilogy! And get these editions! They're incredible.

This post does not contain spoilers.

I love Leigh Bardugo's writing. But her style in this book is quite different from what you might have read in her other books, notably the Six of Crows duology. The pov is first person past tense, from Alina's perspective, and there's a lot of telling instead of showing. For the first book, especially, Bardugo seems to struggle to get inside Alina's head. The perspective is rather removed.

The writing certainly improves as the series continues, and the dialogue is always flawless; witty, funny, emotional, banter on point, it's all wonderful. But the telling instead of showing is frustrating.

The story is never boring, but there isn't a lot of action. In all three books the action comes mainly at the midpoint and then at the climax, and rest of the story is mainly dialogue and character interactions. I'm not complaining - just pointing it out. And because Bardugo is Bardugo, there's also a few lovely twists along the way that you can look forward to :)

The one big issue I have with the series' plot overall, is that Alina doesn't necessarily drive it. Most of the time it isn't actually her choices and actions that bring about the incidents and move the story forward. Sometimes they're just random, or other characters get involved. I wish Alina was "more to blame" for everything that happens.

But despite the issues, every book is still immensely fun and entertaining.

I love the characters. I think they're the highlight of the series. With Bardugo, there really are no small characters; everrone is so vivid, compelling, and fully-realised. You're never left wondering "who's this again?" because with clever details, dialogue, and action, Bardugo shows you exactly who is who. They’re also very memorable.

Alina is a terrific heroine. She's the definition of an underdog. Her grumpiness, pessimism, awkwardness, and general insignificance is refreshing, and I relate to her personality a lot.
While in Book 1 she starts out as the unwilling "Chosen One", she reluctantly rises to the responsibility in Book 2 and undergoes strong character growth and development. Book 2 also finds her grappling with the pull of darkness and writhing under the Darkling's influence. In Book 3, she finally comes into herself.

The rest of the cast is amazing, too. So are their friendships. Book 2 introduces the lead ensemble, and from then on we see a lot more of the colourful group: Tolya, Tamar, Genya, David, Nadia, and of course Mal and Nikolai.
Ah. Nikolai. I'm sure you've heard of the privateer who's probably every bookworm's book boyfriend since the day he arrived on the page. Well, he's fantastic. Dashing, hilarious, smart, and the hero of the upcoming King of Scars.

I admit, there are no two characters I'm shipping wildly in this trilogy. In the first book, it's a slight love triangle - Mal, Alina, and the Darkling - but since the Darkling's relationship with Alina is kinda abusive, it's really her and Mal who are the focus. They're friends, although Alina's always had a crush on him, and their relationship slowly develops into something more as he comes to acknowledge his own growing feelings for her.
In Book 2, Nikolai enters the romantic scene, the Darkling's feelings for Alina intensify, and Mal and Alina go through a hang of a lot of relationship drama and angst. But Bardugo handles it well. Mal's a jerk at times, but Alina's hiding stuff from him. Nikolai wants Alina because of political diplomacy, but the Darkling wants her because of their shared darkness. It's a messy, but it's all well written.
In Book 3, Mal and Alina are cautiously growing back together, Alina is breaking free of the Darkling's clutches, and Alina and Nikolai's relationship is growing stronger despite some horrific turns of events. I'm not going to spoil the end, so I'll leave it at that. But it's all so good ;)

What I love most about the romance in this series is how Bardugo handles all the guys wanting Alina. It would be easy for her to fall into that trap of "all the male characters are falling over themselves for the perfect girl no one can help but fall in love with", but she doesn't. Because everyone is so flawed, and because Alina is so unpretentious, the romances feel human and down to earth (well, as down to earth as fantasy can be). It's not a matter of the Mary Sue everyone falls head over heels in love with. Thank goodness!

Bardugo is a master at creating worlds. The one in this trilogy is Ravka, inspired by 1800s Russia, and it's dark, bleak, and deliciously atmospheric. With every book we get to see more of the world (Bardugo takes us to courts, towns, oceans, mountains, underground communities, and even misty graveyards) and every scene is lavish, rich, and seething with character. Haunting, Gothic, dangerous, and chilling - it's startlingly unique and vividly breathed to life.

In Book 2, we also get to see a lot more of the politics and social structures in the culture.

Have you read this trilogy? What did you think of it? Are you a fan of Leigh Bardugo?

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