After about three years, I’ve finally finished reading Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. I’ll start this post with a quick review of Ruin & Rising and then move onto an over-all review of the series. WARNING: This will contain spoilers.
Ruin & Rising
In the last book of The Grisha Trilogy, we follow Alina on her hunt for the firebird as she seeks out revenge on the Darkling and hopes to restore the world alongside Nikolai and Mal. As a result, much of the story reads like The Hobbit, meaning there is a lot of walking around aimlessly. After finally escaping from the Apparat’s overbearing control – an opening that felt far longer than it really was – Alina and her small band of Grisha go out into the world and nearly get themselves killed a number of different ways. By the time Nikolai finally shows up – only to be wrenched away not long after – I was relieved to get to the action that ended up being short lived anyway as the walking aimlessly continued.
God Alina was annoying in this book. I honestly don’t know who was worse, Mal or Alina. Their playing around each other the whole time was more tiring to read than Jim courting Pam in The Office or Jake and Amy in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I was basically yelling – pardon my language – “Oh shut up and fuck already” at my book. A sad note for me since I enjoyed both of them in the previous two books.
The Darkling, too, felt a little anti-climactic this time around. It probably doesn’t help that I keep comparing him to Kylo Ren but still. He was so almighty and powerful the last times we saw him that having him just kinda die didn’t feel like the death of an antagonist. A point made more clear by the fact that we didn’t really have an antagonist in this final chapter. With Aleksander “redeemed” in Alina’s eyes and the Apparat non-existent after the gang left the underground church, there wasn’t really a bad guy? Maybe that’s just my view.
Lastly I want to talk about my poor, sweet Nikolai. My prince that deserved far better. His presence in the story was a small blip that just pushed Alina towards power. Possessed by the Darkling’s power and turned inside out, I honestly think Nikolai was the one who got the shortest end of the stick by the time everything was all done. He deserved so much better and I hope he gets the story he deserves in the rumored spin-off series.
Now I know it looks confusing that I had so many issues with this book, but at the same time, I enjoyed the final epilogue. No I didn’t like Mal and no I wasn’t a huge fan of Alina’s by the end of things, but knowing that she was safe and happy and helping the children learn and be loved in home that used to run on fear got to me. So yes, I had problems, but I felt something by the end. And even though he wasn’t around for most of it, Nikolai adds a star to the rating for just being there.
The Grisha Trilogy Wrap-Up
I started reading this series years ago because it was one of those YA series that came out when I felt too high and mighty about my reading preferences to go near it. By the time I picked it up again, it had reached this level of fandom standard for YA and I figured it was time to give it a try.
I loved the first book because of how different it was from most YA fantasy novel’s I’d read, at least in terms of how the magic worked and the world building. I enjoyed the characters and how the Darkling’s dialogue was so cleverly twisted that I still can’t help but love him despite how terrible he is.
Book two took a longer time to get through. One, because of my realization of how close the new Star Wars films are to the characterization of Alina and the Darkling (being Rey and Kylo Ren respectively). I know the books were written well before Disney even bought the franchise, but even now, Siege and Storm is so close to The Last Jedi I’ve begun to wonder if they bought the option for it for the sake of not getting sued (like what Darren Aronofsky did with Perfect Blue when making Black Swan so he could use full sequence recreations without getting ripped apart for “theft”). Regardless though, this was the book where I really started disliking Mal, but fell head over heals for Nikolai. And let’s be real here, he made the story.
The last book, as mentioned above, I felt conflicted over. Alina was just as obnoxious as Mal was and there wasn’t really an antagonist. However, the ending fit wonderfully. I don’t think I would have ended up enjoying Alina marrying Nikolai if it actually happened after her behaviour in Ruin and Rising. Nikolai deserves more than someone who is selfish in a way that’s similar to Katniss in Hunger Games as she struggles with the Peeta vs Gale debate (although for Alina it’s a tug-of-war match over wanting Mal but not wanting him to be with someone else). So no, I didn’t like Alina’s arc in the end, but I loved the ending because of everyone else. Sure, no one came out without their losses, but everyone ended up safe, which is what matters. I care so much for the side characters, that my dislike of Alina is irrelevant. Not my favourite series, but one of my favourite worlds for sure.