Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:
Synopsis for Shadow and Bone (from Goodreads):
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Series: The Grisha Trilogy, The Grisha
There are spin-off series set in the same word: Six of Crows and King of Scars
Author: Leigh Bardugo
# of Books: 3 (Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, Ruin and Rising)
There are numerous short stories. See Goodreads for full list and order.
Book Order: Chronological
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2012 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–hardcover
Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:
Truth be told, The Grisha Trilogy has been on my TBR list before I ever joined Goodreads. I mean, just look at that cover! But the blogosphere has serious love for this trilogy and I just had to see what all the fuss was about.
Like all books that are endlessly pumped by my fellow bloggers, I tried to keep an open mind and keep my expectations at the level they would have been at before I started blogging/heard all these awesome things. Still, I was really excited to read this!
The Concept / The World:
The Grisha world is so cool! It’s a great blend of science and magic so it’s not very “witchy”, which (no pun intended) always worries me when I pick up a magic novel (for some reason I don’t like witch series).
What I didn’t like about the world is that I felt like it was never fully explained to me. Sure, the hierarchy breakdown on the page at the start of the novel is helpful in classifying warriors, but I felt lost throughout Shadow and Bone trying to keep all the colours, abilities and roles each Grisha group has straight. Maybe it was explained and I just missed it–it is possible, I do read fast–but I don’t think it truly was. Personally, I like books that take those few pages early on to explain how the world works and that disappointed me with this first book.
Shadow and Bone is your typical first book. I think I was expecting more action given the world but a lot of that first book is watching Alina discovering her powers. Which is fine and great for character development, it just wasn’t very thrilling. The last 100 pages are where things get really interesting. That’s when the plot twists, politics and action happen.
Unfortunately, Siege and Storm wasn’t able keep this momentum going for me. And that is a shame because the 2nd book started off so promising! It’s faster paced, has new exciting characters and we get these great mini twists that propel you forward. But then suddenly we get a lull again–and I get why we do, truly I do. It’s needed to build up the rest of the plot for the end of the series. I just wish it didn’t have to be so boring and dry to do that. Perhaps my low tolerance was a result of my reading slump but I think this book would have been slower to me even if I was in the right mood.
I felt like most of this series was just waiting for something big to happen in order for the characters to react; especially in Ruin and Rising (when a conclusion book should be wrapping everything up if you ask me) . Which means great character development and world-building but very little action. And to me that is a waste of potential because these Grisha ARE SO COOL and could do so many other things that would keep my interest!
**My next statement might be a little spoiler-y regarding the last book**
I also have to say this: I feel like Ruin and Rising wrapped up too neatly. It was oddly reminiscent of my reading experience with Breaking Dawn; where everything fans want to see happens and I don’t really feel resolved with these characters. But I was also at the point where I didn’t really care what happened to Alina so it didn’t break my heart.
**End spoiler-y statement**
This is one of those series where I love the secondary characters (and the villain) more than the heroine. Everyone seemed 20x more interesting than Alina to me. She was just dull and I suppose that is part of the point. Like most heroines in a high fantasy, she is suddenly thrust into a world she never expected and discovers she isn’t who she truly expected. But unlike those other heroines, she doesn’t have anything that makes her stand out. Same goes for Mal. I mean I liked them and wanted to root for them but I found myself drawn to these other characters who have much more interesting lives, relationships and attitudes.
The romance is pretty typical. There is a love triangle/square and it’s executed fairly well in terms of driving the plot forward. Around the second book it gets a little tedious to read about because it’s just jealousy-invoking situations. I also think it doesn’t help that Alina and Mal bore me so that potential pairing doesn’t have me jumping for joy whereas the other one (possibly the other two) suitors peak my interest a lot more.
The Short Stories:
I only read the one story, The Tailor, after Shadow and Bone because of the character it focuses on. I enjoyed it as an extended scene though it isn’t necessary to read.
I didn’t pick up the other short stories but I may one day.
I did pick up The Demon in the Woods and The Witch of Duva when the eBooks became available at my library. Both are ~25 pages and give you a little insight into some characters and the world. I actually didn’t finish The Witch of Duva because I couldn’t get into it but The Demon in the Woods was an interesting and informative story. Again, not necessary but for fans of the series, I’m sure they will gobble these up!
Will I pick up the spin-off series?
Actually, I’m really looking forward to the spin-off series! Like I said earlier, I really loved the Grisha world and I think with a new cast of characters, I could easily become obsessed with this universe.
See my review of the spin-off series Six of Crows here!
See my review of the spin-off series King of Scars here!
Grishaverse Series Reading Order:
(1) Shadow and Bone Trilogy, (2) Six of Crows, (3) King of Scars
Series Rating: 3/5
Shadow and Bone 3.5/5 | Siege and Storm 3/5 | Ruin and Rising 3/5
This series just didn’t work for me. The pacing was off, the lead characters were typical and the romance was lacklustre. I loved the world but it wasn’t enough to keep my interest. I also think this book suffered from over-hyped syndrome and my expectations for something mind-blowing were at a maximum for this one and I feel like it didn`t live up to that expectation.
Read if You Like: multi-layered worlds, high fantasy, magic based on science
Avoid if You: don’t like slower starts, don’t like adventure paced novels
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Aw I’m sorry you weren’t too impressed with this series. I liked it, but I do agree with you that the pace was often way too slow – especially in the last book. My favorite character was Nikolai. I would read a series based on him.
I’m sad too 🙁 I really, really wanted to like this one! I had been looking forward to reading it for a long time (before I started blogging) so I was really excited to finally read it. But, yes, the pacing killed it for me.
Man, I really wanted Nikolai to be the lead in the new series! I adored him and I wish he had a bigger role in the whole series!
Great review! 🙂 I’m still unsure weather to go into this series or not. Maybe I will, later…
This one wasn’t for me but I think the new series will be! So I’m looking forward to it. If you ever get around to this series, let me know! I’d love to know your thoughts!
The spin off series, Six of Crows, is SO good. And I felt the same way about you in regards to Mal and Alina, but Six of Crows has much more intriguing primary characters that are written with much more nuance!
That is FANTASTIC news! I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Thank you for sharing 😀
AGREEDAGREEDAGREED. Well I gave the first two books higher ratings than I probably should have, and I absolutely agree with all your points. Alina wasn’t a very dynamic character. I hardly felt sympathetic for her character… or interested in her at all. The other characters though were awesome (well you know my love for the Darkling, so yeah). And yes, I had the same exact thought when I finished Ruin and Rising; it is very much an audience-pleaser like Breaking Dawn.
Lovely reviews, Lauren! I’m so glad we were able to read these together coincidentally!
Oh the Darkling <3 He definitely needed more page time in my mind. Him and Nikolai were my favourites for sure! They had layers to their character while Alina did not.
haha its kinda funny that we ended up reading these around the same time! But I'm glad that's how it worked out! Definitely made me feel better that I wasn't alone in my opinions 😛