I recognized the cover and remembered an old roommate of mine had these books and I think I borrowed and read at least one? But as I finally cracked open the trilogy for myself nothing felt familiar so maybe I just saw the cover a lot. I read Bardugo other series, set in the same broad universe, and was very impressed with how she told a new and very different story. I also want to go re-read Six of Crows, which I remember being better. But it was nice to have some frame of reference going into the Grisha trilogy.
Basically this world Bardugo has created has magic (here also called the Small Science, which I kind of appreciate). The country in which our narrator, Alina, lives has been split in two by the dark and forbidding Fold – a shadowed place where evil creatures live and very few humans escape. Grisha – magic weilders – can help but the Fold separates the bulk of the kingdom from its ports, completely destabilizing the economy. I’m of the George R. R. Martin school of fantasy where these kind of details are what hook me, but alas, the Grisha trilogy goes no further in this direction. Alina discovers that she may have the power to turn back the Fold and the story ensues from there. There is a grand Evil, there is good intentions gone awry, there is a surprisingly charming pirate prince. I’m not in a rush to re-read the series, but I’m also not mad I powered through all three in less than a week. Most of the characters are pretty forgettable, and the lead love interest is pretty milquetoast, but it didn’t feel like this series was going out there to redefine the genre or anything.
One thing I did appreciate was how the final chapters of the third book kind of turned the “chosen one” narrative on its head. Aline learns a lot that refutes what she was expecting and the twist in the final battle felt earned and satisfying. I definitely had to review all three together like this, though, because there was no way I was going to be able to tell them apart after the fact.