With the many Young Adult (YA) fantasy fictions these days, it's hard to find a unique, one-of-a-kind series that stands out. YA fan that I am, I usually roam around the internet looking for recommendations of books worth reading. Luckily, one day I stumbled upon Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy. I gave the series a try, and instantly fell in love.
Getting to know the series The Grisha trilogy consists of #1 Shadow and Bone, #2 Siege and Storm, and #3 Ruin and Rising. So far, the first two novels have been released. The third novel is coming in 2014.
The series take place in fictional Ravka, that resembles Tsarist Russia a lot. In this world, there are Grisha, people with special powers who can do assorted things, for instance, create fire and control the winds. Along with the army they are supposed to protect Ravka from danger and threats from other countries, such as Shu Han and Fjerdan. Ravka itself is at the edge of breaking down as it is consumed by the Shadow Fold, slowly but surely.
We are introduced to Alina Starkov, the main character, who used to think that she was just a normal orphan and commoner. However, her fate dramatically changes when she discovers that she is a Grisha. Not just any Grisha, but possibly one of the most powerful that ever exists. She may just be able to save Ravka from the Shadow Fold.
Soon she moves from her dodgy neighborhood to the fancy, royal life of Grisha. She starts spending a lot of time with the Darkling, who claims to know how to stop the Shadow Fold. But Alina misses her best friend Mal, who now lives far away from her.
The story then revolves around how Alina must save Ravka, not an easy job, since she isn't aware of the betrayals, tortures, and conflicts to come.
What I liked about the series
There are a lot of reasons why I enjoy Grisha Trilogy:
1. Leigh Bardugo creates a unique concept: Russian style fantasy. Everything about the book is Russian - the names, the settings, the culture, everything. This is probably the first book I read that has that Russian elements to it. It's always good to try something new.
2. Bardugo's writing style is good. Every reader can tell she's quite a decent writer. Her descriptions are alive, vivid, detailed, and make the reader imagine what's happening clearly.
3. Strong characters. In the two books that have been released, the development of the characters is evident. Alina has become stronger, relationships have gotten more complicated. Over time, new characters are added who strengthen the story arc more, and they're never redundant. They play big roles in the whole story.
4. The love story is deep. Yes, it is a love triangle between Alina, Mal, and the Darkling (so common and Twilight-y), but it has substance as any good love triangle should have. Readers can play "Team Mal" and "Team Darkling" and have fun, eagerly guessing who will Alina end up with.
5. Most importantly, the story itself is engaging.
What I disliked about the series
I don't have anything significant negative aspects to complain about in the series. It's just that at a few stages of the book there is so much emotional contemplation (as narrated by Alina) that the reader might become bored and "fed up". Nevertheless, this is not really a major problem. Bardugo perhaps just wants to show how "human" and torn Alina is so the reader can sympathise with her.
I would recommend The Grisha Trilogy for readers who want a different kind of fantasy among the typical YA fantasy books. Grisha Trilogy has its own folktales, mythology, and everything that make up a good fantasy book. The series would also suit those who love epic romances. All in all, Grisha Trilogy is definitely worth reading.