Rating: 4.5 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
If you’re taking the time out of your day to read this, but don’t actually want to read it, I’ll go ahead and make my reaction/experience with this book into multiple gifs. Enjoy. If, by chance, you do wish to actually read my review, I will also write that with no spoilers, promise. (I might die while writing, though, because of my smothering feels. So if this is half finished and it ends dramatically in the middle of a sentence like An Imperial Affliction, you know what happened.)
My reactions (and what you can expect when reading this book):
Okay . . . review now.
This is not a bad book – not by any standards. I’m seeing all these horrible reviews on Goodreads about the ending and what happens, and I just don’t agree.
It is hard to write this without spoilers, but I will prevail. Basically, this is what you need to know: the ending will tear you apart. And one of two things is going to happen – you’re either going to throw the book at the wall or you’re going to cry your eyes out (or, if you’re like me, sit staring down at the cover for about five minutes without moving while trying (and failing) to process your feels in a human way. Good luck with that).
I’m going to start with my one big beef with this book, and basically why I had a difficult time rating this book as high as I did.
She doesn’t get any better. On one hand, I like the girl. I do. She’s very down-to-earth, and I can’t help but think most of her reactions are more . . . well . . . human. She’s not a fighter and she never will be. She has never wanted any of this, and while there are things about the ending that I would change, I do believe that Bardugo gave Alina the ending she thought would be best. It couldn’t have been easy, but I have to admire Bardugo for that.
Don’t expect Alina to become a fighter here. She is smarter, braver, and even a little more ruthless than before (thank the heavens), but she is by no means a heartless warrior. And while she wants vengeance and justice, no matter how hard she tries she isn’t able to fully be ruthless in the way I was hoping for.
I wanted her to grow more. I wanted her to put her heart to the side and do what needs to be done. And while she does do everything she can . . . it’s just not enough. She can’t get past her own range of sad, sad emotions, which was kind of annoying at times.
But there are, of course, these glorious times when we see a side of Alina that’s hard, in control, and very, very satisfying. I just wish we got to see more of that.
“I’ve never understood this taste for otkazat’sya. Is it because you thought you were one of them for so long?”
“I had a taste for you, once.” His head snapped up. He hadn’t expected that. Saints, it was satisfying.
Nikolai: I’m the minority here, but I’m not a huge fan of his. The reason is because while he does have most of the best quotes, and I would kill to be able to have a conversation with him, he’s not someone I would ever fall in love with. And it’s kind of the same reason Alina doesn’t either.
“I’ve been busy. I might have some surprises in store for the Darkling yet.”
“Please tell me you plan to dress up as a volcra and jump out of a cake.”
“Well, now you’ve ruined the surprise.”
His first love will always be Ravka. As it should be with him as king. But because of that, he will never love Alina has much as he should love a wife. In fact, I don’t believe he’s in love with her at all, but simply loves her as a friend who he gets along with. And with him on the throne, he needs a queen, and he’d be lucky to end up with someone like Alina, who he loves and likes to spend times with. But he is not in love with her.
My heart does hurt for him here. He’s kind of like that best friend, who is simply born to be a leader. Unfortunately, with that can sometimes come great loneliness.
Mal: I’m still 50/50 on him. There are times when I love the guy and other times I just don’t care for him, and he feels like a background character. I feel like the reason Alina loves him is because he loved her first and she loved him first. It makes me wonder what would have happened if she meet, say, Nikolai first. With Mal, Alina feels comfortable, and doesn’t have to wonder if he loves her for her power or the possibility of her becoming a queen, but simply because he loves her for her. And while that is swoon worthy . . . I don’t know. Mal just didn’t do it for me.
The Darkling: There’s not much I can say about him without giving away major spoilers. But I do love him. He’s my favorite character, and will go down as one of my all time favorite bad guys.
I ship Darklina.
What can I say about him? He’s a lost soul, one of those characters that you love and hate at the same time. It doesn’t hurt that he’s good looking. And he’s just so . . . lonely. He’s like Phoenix from The Violet Eden Chapters. And it breaks my heart.
Overall, I was both happy and disappointed with this book. There are things I loved about it, things I hated about it, but I left it with a chip in my soul, so overall it was an epic book.