After misfit Alina Starkov discovers that she has an extremely rare power as the Sun Summoner, she gets dragged into the mystical world of the Grisha, the magical elite that serves her kingdom.
Why this book?: I have heard nothing but good things about this book through Tumblr and Goodreads, so I figured it was by-time that I started this book!
I had to start this book twice. The first time, I believed that I needed something different, because the book wasn’t that good, at least in my eyes. So I waited a few months, hoping with time this book was warm up to me, and I to it.
Sadly, that was not the case.
Empty, repeat characters
Reading these characters, Alina, Mal, the Darkling, and all the others, just felt like I was reading any other over-popular teen book. No offense to some popular books, or to the YA genre at all, but I felt like these characters were used over and over in other books that were on the best-sellers list. Every character only had one or two characteristics they were defined by, which seemed to totally defeat the purpose of ‘life-like’ characters. People aren’t defined by their most obvious attribute, but by the accumulation of all of them.
This book also sends horrible messages to young girls, mainly stemming from the main character Alina. She sees herself as ugly and boring in the beginning of the book, and she only gains confidence once she gets a magical makeover by her friend, and she meets the Darkling who compliments her. Before that, she was ‘worthless’. But after the makeover and meeting her supposed love interest, suddenly, she was perfect just the way she was.
That sends the horrible message to girls that they aren’t good enough unless they have someone telling them that, or until they have a makeover to completely change them. Why wasn’t Alina good before? Was it because she didn’t look like the conventional opinion of ‘beautiful’?
Writing that leaves a lot to be desired
I was honestly surprised with how far the book went, when it wasn’t even that long in the first place. Ms. Bardugo’s writing, not to be offensive, reminded me of some of the writing that I’ve found on fanfiction(.)net, from children and teenagers trying to be the next J.K. Rowling. It was fairly disappointing, too, considering I’ve enjoyed some of those fanfictions with no complaints of the writing style.
The writing was thin, giving little to no description on plenty of things that should have been described in detail. It hopped all over the place, not taking any breaks which really bored me and tired me out, mainly because there was really nothing going on despite the fast-paced writing.
Unique ideas or offensive stereotypes?
At first, the idea behind the Grisha seemed really cool and interesting. That was one of the things that drew me into reading this, because I wanted to know more and figure out what was so special with Alina. The names, which were very distinctive (and kind of confusing) for each class of Grisha, made me want to know more about each separate class, and what their powers and limitations were. As the book went on, as well, you learned that there were lesser known classes, more rare or more common. I began with thinking this was a very cool idea.
But then I began reading things that I have heard a lot about since reading this book. Not knowing this person personally, but they were a native Russian, and found a lot of these words and stereotypes very offensive. They stated that it seemed as if Ms. Bardugo didn’t do any such research for her novels, but just wrote down what sounded cool and hip at that moment. When I read this, I suddenly saw what had been bothering me.
I wasn’t learning anything new about Russian culture, which this book was supposedly based off of. I was just hearing cool sounding words, and going along with what the author said they meant. Now that I knew this, I read the book with new eyes, and saw how offensive a book that basically uses someone’s heritage as a plot device.
Final Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Overall, I honestly couldn’t believe that I took the time to finish this book after seeing how disappointing it was. The characters were overused, the writing was empty, and the whole idea behind it, while at first interesting, was actually quite . . . stereotypical, to say the least
Would I Recommend?
That’s a flat out no. The horrible message for girls stops me from even saying ‘give it a try’. And, to be quite honest, the relationship between Alina and the Darkling was very abusive, so this book isn’t good for anyone.
I’ve seen a lot of people say they really enjoyed this book, and that it’s one of their favorites. Don’t take offence to my opinion, as its just my opinion. I won’t ‘hate’ read the rest of the series, or Bardugo’s other books, which I’ve actually seen people do for other series.
Published: June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Page Count: 358
Synopsis: via 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.