This book was very entertaining. The world building was awesome, especially the Grisha world with all their power.
I'm not exactly sure what time period this book takes place but it does give hints that it was in the past because rifles were just starting to get popular and everyone traveled either on foot or by horse. The country of Ravka, which is where the book takes place, has a king, a queen, dukes and nobles. I think Ravka maybe Russia or a country like Russia because of the words in the book and the names of the characters.
The story opens with both Alina and Mal being among the chosen soldiers to enter the fold to go to west Ravka and the true sea that lies near west Ravka. Both Alina and Mal are in the army with Alina as a cartographer and Mal a tracker. The fold is a a pitch black barren area with winged monsters called the Volcra who attack any sand-skiffs that enter the fold and eat the passengers on them. Later on we find out that the fold was created by a Darkling who is the head of the Grisha. So Alina and Mal end up of the same sand-skiff and they get attacked in the fold. There are Grisha o onboard the snad-skiff who try to fight the Volcra. Mal saves Alina and gets hurt in the process. Alina sees a volcra going straight for Mal so she throws herself on him and all of a sudden the entire area is bathed in sunlight which scares off the volcra. Turns out Alina is a sun summoner and never knew it. Immediately she is taken away to the Grisha school to learn how to use her power. Apparently Alina is the only sun summoner and so the Darkling becomes attached to her. He claims that he needs her power to destroy the fold and she becomes like his little pet or something.
I liked the main character, Alina. She and Mal were orphans who grew up in an orphanage run by a duke. They've been best friends since they were 8. In the beginning of the book Alina is described as being weak and kind of sickly, never being able to keep up with Mal during their childhood or at the present. Alina describes herself as being plain and not pretty. She loves Mal but apparently he's some sort of player and doesn't really give her the time of day in the romantic sense. They are best friends and that's how she believes it will stay. Alina struggles when she is in the grisha school and she can't actively summon her power. She works with Baghra, a disgruntled teacher who is has more to her than meets the eye. Alina also has combat training with an instructor named Botkin. Alina is horrible at this and is unable to keep up with the exercises. However after realizing a few things (I won't tell you what) Alina is finally able to unleash her power. After she learns to call her power on command her body begins to change and suddenly she is stronger, prettier and able to kick some ass in combat training. Alina is brave especially when she runs away from the grisha school. She doesn't know where to go or how to get where she is supposed to go but she decides to escape anyway. She is also tough and a survivor because after she runs away she had to sustain herself, find food, places to sleep on the road as well as getting to her destination which in this case is walking. You can see Alina's character growth from this wimpy weakling to a strong, powerful, confident girl who fights for what she believes in and for who she loves. I loved reading about her journey and I can;t wait to continue it in the next book.
I also really liked Mal even though he wasn't really in the book until the last quarter of the book.
Mal is very protective if Alina and will do anything for her. When she runs away, he deserts the army to find her and help her. Alina notes many times in the book that Mal has hardened and has become different than the carefree happy boy he once was. This is probably due to being in the army and all of what that entails. Mal loves Alina but it takes him a long time to realize that, which he finally does when she gets taken to the grisha school. I like this aspect of their romance because it's not insta love (Alina tells us a memory of the first time she realized that she loves Mal) and its not in your face. Both Alina and Mal will do anything for each other and they try to save one another countless times. I loved the way Mal told her he loved her. I just had to include it in the review:
"I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I’ve risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you and I’d do it again and again and again to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me we don’t belong together,” he said fiercely. He was very close now and my heart was hammering in my chest. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”
He lowered his head and I felt his lips on mine."
At first I liked the Darkling but then you get to see how evil he is in the end of the book. He dupes Alina into believing that he cares for her by kissing her, sweet talking her and basically praising her at every turn. I didn't want to hate the Darkling but you just can't help it when you see the true him and not the fake one he presents to Alina. I hate Ivan too, who is the Darkling's right hand man. He is really cruel and kind of a sadist. He needs to die asap. Genya is another character I liked in the beginning. She was a good friend to Alina and helped her in anyway she could. Though Genya was kinda like a slave to the queen, Alina never treated her as one and often chose to be around her instead of all the other grisha. But just like almost all the characters, she sells her soul (metaphorically speaking) to the Darkling and I was really bummed out when I read that part. I thought Genya would completely be on Alina's side but she was just out for herself (the Darkling raised her to a grisha).
I liked learning about the grisha as Alina did. I'm still a little confused about the concept of an amplifier and how a person can be one. The jist of it is that a amplifier can be a person or a thing like the bones of an animal, that when worn by a grisha, amplifies their power. From what I gathered, if the amplifier is an animal bone then that certain grisha has to be the one to kill that animal and then the power in the bones bond to the grisha and only that grisha can use that amplifier. Anywayyyyyy lol. Also I liked reading about the different grisha but my problem with that was the names were confusing and the book never really specifically told you what each grisha's power was. The Corporalki is the highest grisha order (order of the living and the dead) and they consist of the healers and the heartrenders. Obviously healers heal peoples injuries but the book never really tells you specifically what the heartrenders can do. Apparently they kill people and if the school they experiment using corpses n stuff. Gross. Next is the Etherealik (order of the summoners) which consist of squallers, inferni and tidemakers. Inferni have power over fire. For the longest time I had no idea what a squaller was but then the books alludes to us that they have power over the wind. I still don't know what the hell a timemaker's power is. Alina is in this group- she can summon sunlight. Last is the Materialki (order of the fabrikators) which consist of the Durasts and the Alkemi. I have no idea what these grisha do. They can forge grisha steel, they make Alina's mirror gloves and they make clothes. They are hardly mentioned in the book which is a shame because seeing how this is the first book of a series, this would have been the time to inform the reader of all the grisha powers and the different orders. Also sometimes it's confusing in the book when its talking about the other grisha because they use the name of the order and the name of the different grisha interchangeably. For example they'll use Corporalki in one sentence and in the next use Heartrender when talking about the same person.
Overall it was a good book and I'm definitely going to read the next one to see what happens.
This review is also posted on Spantalian's Book Reviews