Summary: This is the third and the last book of the Grisha Trilogy.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army. Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozov’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
Read my review for the first book: Shadow and Bone (Grishaverse 1) by Leigh Bardugo
and the second book: Siege and Storm (Grishaverse 2) by Leigh Bardugo
This is definitely an interesting trilogy. I enjoyed it overall, even if I had a major problem with how Bargudo chose to be inspired by Russian culture and use it for aesthetic.
The world that Bardugo created is fascinating, the powers, and the magic and it’s creatures. I enjoyed the writing and the story.
I don’t think I’ll ever be content with the fact that our heroine was so willing and happy to give up the integral part of who she was. Don’t get me wrong, I do not blame or judge her for wanting to be ordinary — I just wish it wasn’t so closely tied with the romance in this novel. I wish Alina’s need and desire to be ordinary wasn’t tied to her need to be with Mal. She was perfectly happy to fulfil her duty to her country and her people – but she wished for nothing more to just give up everything and run away and be a nobody – just to be with a man. The most awful and ironic thing of course, is that when she was an ordinary nobody that man wanted nothing romantic with her, and it was only after she rose into power that he realized he loved her all along and wanted to give her a chance.
I came to understand Mal a little better during this re-read. A lot of his actions stem from worry for Alina, how she suffers under the burden of power, and how again – she is willing to give up what she wants for what needs to be done. But his behavior – and his attempts to distance himself from Alina, only hurt her and instead of making her not want to be with him, they made her hate her powers and her responsibilities because it prevented them from being together. Their entire romance bothered me to no end, their jealousy, their constant need to turn into other people for the sake of each other. Not to mention the fact that Alina always compared herself to other women in his presence, which affected how she saw these women and her relationships with other women were constantly in tension. She always noted how beautiful they were, how graceful, and strong compared to her own self. And it was honestly just really unpleasant to read.
Alina seemed to always work so much better with other people. Her banter with Nikolai was so amusing and even though neither of them had feelings for the other even a little, they shared a connection and their friendship was a great one. Alina never seemed to doubt herself or try to make herself less in his presence and Nikolai constantly reminded Alina that she was his greatest ally.
Even with Darkling – our unhinged villain. I’m not saying I ship them nor would I ever want or wanted them together, but his connection and understanding with Alina was undeniable. The problem is of course that he only wanted her for her power and he wanted nothing more but to turn her into a weapon. But again, Alina never compared herself to other girls or Grisha in his presence – she knew that they had no equals. The Darkling inspired her and made her feel powerful. It was because of him that she finally accepted who she was and grew as a person – even if it was in order to defeat him.
Your lover isn’t supposed to make you want to be less. He isn’t supposed to make you feel guilty about who you are. You’re supposed to forget all others. Love isn’t supposed to be jealous. I hated it. Every aspect of Alina and Mal’s relationship.
So overall, I rather enjoyed this series. It definitely has its merits and it’s clear why people love it. But I certainly wish we had a better romantic plotline and that Bardugo did a better job of integrating Russian culture into her world.