My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
I have had a hard time writing a review for this book - not because I have anything negative to say. Quite the opposite, in fact. I absolutely loved this book (and Shadow & Bone), but they are so different from any of the books I normally read...I wanted to do them justice.
This is the second book in The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I read the first book - Shadow & Bone - late last year. Just let me say it was incredible and unlike any book I had read before - I loved it. I was waiting (impatiently) for the second installment, with little worry as to the quality of a sequel because the first book was that good. I was correct to feel this way. There was no reason to worry about any 'sequel syndrome' because this book was even better than the first.
What I loved:
The writing style is beautiful, and Bardugo has created such a rich world - full of color, texture and language, poverty and opulence in a complex hierarchy, vividly realized through detailed description.
Alina's evolution as a main character. She comes into her own a little more and accepts that her power is part of who she is. She is more assertive. There is also her realization of the consequences of her power, and recognition of her darker side...where she hungers for more. It is her struggle to remain true to herself, and do what she must to make things right to save Ravka - regardless of it is what she wants for her personal life, that makes it poignant and bittersweet to read.
In fact, all of the characters are amazingly developed and fully present in these books. What makes this book even better than the first, in my opinion, is that the characters have all grown and matured based on all that they have been through.
Mal: I adore his protectiveness and true love of Alina...he is real, someone we all know in our lives. We see new depth in this character, his pride and insecurities...what he is willing to do for Alina, even when he does not agree with her ideas. Things are not all sunshine and roses for them in this book. There were times when I really, really disliked his behavior and attitude...but in the end, theirs is a quiet love forged through a long history together. The question is, will it be enough to see them through, or will other factors outside of their own hearts decide the fate of their love?
The Darkling: Oh, he is beautiful - even in his darkness. He is all raw power and desire, sensual and dangerous. His powers have grown tremendously since his experience in the fold. He wants Alina for his own purpose, but I honestly think he actually cares for her...well, as much as he is able. At the very least, he understands her. He is not physically in very much of this book. He does remain in Alina's thoughts, his words and an ethereal presence haunt her...so he is still a large part of the overall story.
We are introduced to Sturmhond, a supremely charismatic Privateer who helps Alina and Mal. He is confident, extremely witty and looks at life with a fair amount of amusement. He is also not one to take for granted, because he is very resourceful, has a loyal crew and is deadly when necessary. However, he has his own secrets to be revealed. He also happens to be my favorite character in this book, if for nothing other than his witty banter. I am a sucker for witty banter.
The emotional twists and turns, ups and downs, ins and outs that this series takes you on is both exhilarating and exhausting...I had knots in my stomach, laughed and cried, felt joy and sadness, hope and despair. Oh, but it is worth every single one of the feels you endure.
Simply stated, the story is riveting and beautifully told...the characters are powerful and believable. I am yet again in the unfortunate position of waiting impatiently for the last book in this trilogy - Ruin and Rising, due out in 2014. If you have not yet started this series, please give it serious thought - you do not want to miss this experience.