Guest Review: Grisha Trilogy by SJ Bouquet

8:00 AM

I wanted to be a pirate princess when I was a little girl. I wanted to wear leather, shoot guns, swing swords, and amass hoards of treasure. Unfortunately, pirates don't represent the same romantic notions they once did. At 19, I'm still growing up, and still want to throw all my responsibilities to the wind and chase freedom. But alas, I've exhausted my interest in college (didn't care for that whole write 10+ pages worth of essays CONSTANTLY thing) and I've developed a strong fear of open water (watched one too many movies about ship wrecks). So how does this pirate wannabe spend her days? Tweeting pics of my dog and reading aaaalll the YA and classic novels. I'll always be a pirate at heart, but for now I'll settle for being an Erudite, a Slytherin, lover of Sebastian Stan's face, and a die-hard Leigh Bardugo and Jane Austen fan. 


Dear Readers,
You should be warned that I liked this series a lot. I just read them for the first time in the month of July, so the genius that is Leigh Bardugo is still fresh in my mind. I believe that overstatement is underrated, but I am a guest, so I'll (try to) keep this short and sweet.

SJ Bouquet

Grisha Trilogy

What I liked: Everything

What I hated: Nothing

Quotes: The books

....okay okay maybe that's a little too short?
Let's try this again...

Plot: I'm giving the series a 5 out of 5 stars, so obviously I think the plot was amazing. There was action, and those nitty gritty details that didn't shy away from violence. There were pirates, and chases, and steamy hot romantic scenes. But these things can be found in a lot of stories, so what made The Grisha Trilogy special? It was realistic and so well written. This is a good quality series. Now I'm not going to delve too deeply into the plot here, because that would just result in spoilers and a super long review. The rest of my review should give enough insight as to what the story is about :) So read on, dear reader!

Pacing: Again, this is an action packed series. The pacing was good for the most part, but I felt like Leigh Bardugo kind of dropped the ball in the second book- Siege & Storm. First half of the book was great. My favorite character is introduced (Nikolai). Mal and Alina are hunted. They hunt a mythical sea creature. Fun. But then the story starts to drag. The characters experience a period of waiting. They have to wait for everyone to heal and regroup, and gain forces and plan military strategies. There's a lot...of....waiting. Now the character's were great, and made these dragging parts not seem so incredibly boring, but I still wish there was a bit more substance to the middle of Siege & Storm

Character Development: Alina is the main character of the three books. She is a... muted character at first. She lives in the shadow of her best friend Mal. She isn't particularly talented. She isn't all that attractive. She's in the background, living the life of an orphan who got drafted into the army. She's nobody. Until her power is discovered and she kicks ass. Aside from finding out she has a rare power, I don't think Alina grows all that much. Yeah she has things happen TO her, but as a person, she doesn't really change. She's still that girl who doesn't really crave attention. She likes a quiet life. She likes Mal. She's happy being normal. Even when she has the amplifiers causing her to crave more and more power, she is literally still the same girl. No real development on her part. I liked her as a character, but she wasn't outstanding.  She had scenes that made her seem badass, made her relateable, and she even had a reasonable personality. None of this angsty teenage crap. She's quite beautifully written, but doesn't change.

Mal changed a lot, and for the good. He starts off as this goofy yet devastatingly handsome character who all the honeys flock to. But then life happens, and he's forced to grow up. I actually really liked reading how Mal developed. In a scene from Shadow & Bone, and a good bit of Siege & Storm, I couldn't stand him. He reacts so poorly to change. I found him to be immature and sulky. In Ruin & Rising, well, he rises above that, and just develops into a really truly great guy. He maintains a sense of humor, he's still handsome, but the war scars him and leaves him matured. It's wonderful to see this unfold.
I can't go into much detail about The Darkling, but let me just say that there are many different sides to him and it was difficult to know what was the real him, and the fake him. He has such a DEEP character.  My favorite version of him was in the last book, Ruin & Rising. He develops so much. We learn so much about him. His ending is tragic and gorgeously written. It made me cry, and I want to read it again and again. He thoroughly got the ending he deserved. I respect Leigh Bardugo so much, and praise her for that realistic, yet respectful end.

NOW FOR NIKOLAI! I'm questioning whether or not I saw the most development in him because he was the one I was obsessed with, or if he actually changed the most. Idk. Maybe both? Nikolai starts off as this swash buckling rapscallion bastard prince with charm just oozing out of his sassy self. I LOVED Nikolai Lantsov. He maintains that cocky demeanor and quick wit, but his ending left me sad. This man deserved more than the lasting scars of what The Darkling did to him. He changes from such a happy character to someone with a more melancholy undertone. It breaks my heart. 

World Building: While going on a crazy fan researching spree, I found out that Leigh Bardugo had come up with her idea for this story partially because she saw some old Russian art. One of my favorite things is that throughout the book, you can see those Russian elements seep in through the character's names, and the architecture of the palaces. Even looking at the map in the first few pages, you can see how Russia influences the landscape. It's north of a land where the people have almond shaped eyes and olive skin- basically a collective version of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia... other Asian countries. And to the north and west of Ravka (the main country in the Grisha Trilogy), there are super tall blonde people, which I saw as Scandinavians. 

One of the characters, The Aparat (a priest) reminded me of Rasputin from Russian history. There are all kinds of parallels that can be drawn between Ravka and Russia and it fascinated me.

Now what the hell's a Grisha? Grisha are these people with a talent for the Small Science. They aren't witches. They can't just create something from nothing. The best way I can explain it is, think of Magneto or those bender fellas from Avatar. They can control/bend certain elements, right? Grisha have gifts that allow them to, as I understood it, work the elements. There are Grisha who can heal people, who can kill people by simply squeezing their fists and thus squeezing the person's heart. There are Grisha who can work fire (they require a flint to get it going though), and they can call on the wind. There are some who can tinker, create wonderful inventions, and others who can tailor a humans appearance. They can't change what a person looks like forever, but they can alter features to look a certain way over time. It's really fascinating.

While the world of Ravka and the Grisha were pretty cool, the series ended and I found myself left with some questions. There's a world beyond Ravka and its border countries. Across the sea there are other people, and that world is only briefly explored. It's never mentioned (as far as I remember) whether Grisha live there or what that country thinks of Grisha and how they are treated. In the countries bordering Ravka, the Grisha were treated like witches. They were hunted down and killed or experimented on. What about this country across the sea, though? Why couldn't the Grisha find sanctuary there?

Another thing that bothered me was we never really found out the origins of Alina, the Sun Summoner. She isn't like the other Grisha. She can wield light. Sun beams. But why is she different? I realize she's an orphan, and can't know her own history, but the author could have found a way to let the reader know why Alina was the Sun Summoner. Or why the Darkling could control the shadows. What made these two different from everyone else? Were they just a fluke? I don't know! AND THE SERIES IS OVER SO I'LL NEVER KNOW?! My biggest beef with this series is I wish everything was explained more thoroughly. I have questions, and I NEED answers.

Romances: Okay so instead of a love triangle, this book has a Love Tetrahedron. Yeah that's right. There are three potential romances all revolving around one girl. You might think that's a bit ridiculous, but I think it's oh so wonderful. There's the Darkling and Alina. Mal and Alina. Nikolai and Alina. I personally could ship her with all three of them at various parts of the books, but my main OTP was Nikolai and Alina! Because I love him and obviously I want him to have a happily ever after. The only time, I did not love this Tetrahedron was when Mal was getting all pissy and acting like a baby. That man could hold a SERIOUS grudge. And it hurt Alina deeply. I wanted to strangle Mal on one than more occasion. Ugh. Bastard.

Side note: There's an LGBT romance, and while I do think it's nice it's in the book, I think it could have been developed sooo much better. As it is in the story, it's just kind of thrown in as an afterthought. It annoyed me how undercooked that romance was. 

Prose and Dialogue: The interactions between the characters are so delightfully written! The dialogue is either one big banter fest (one of the many reasons I love Nikolai is because he's just so witty and charming), or a means of learning new information, or just a way of leaving you with goose pimples, and it's so incredibly great. There are many wonderful quotes to pull from the pages--

(she would make herself a reckoning. she would rise)

Okay, I gotta stop before I get too carried away! But those are just a handful of the beautiful quotes. And there are loads of funny ones to be found too.

Even though I quite thoroughly enjoyed this series, as you can tell from my review, it's not perfect. There are flaws, but I honestly believe that all the good in this series outweighs the bad. If you haven't read it, then I hope you do and I hope you enjoy it! 

Read my individual reviews here!

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