I’m trash for the whole Grishaverse, so of course I loved this. If anyone else, like me, enjoyed both previous series and ever thought to themselves, “Hey, you know what would be great, a sequel to the Grisha trilogy that feels more thematically like Six of Crows?” you’re in luck! Because that’s this book. We’re back with some of our favorite characters from both all of the books, and they’ve all been through some shit, so they’re all a little bit (or a lot bit) cynical and hardened and still just trying to do their best even though it never seems to get any easier.
Zoya was always a character in great want of a POV. Before, she was mainly there as an antagonist who became an ally held at arm’s length, but she was always an electric character. It was clear, from what we saw of her, that there was a lot more than met the eye. Fascinating supporting characters often remain enigmatic mysteries, but I was stoked to get to see some of what makes Zoya tick. More than that, I was pleased by what Bardugo did with her: she knew better than to fill Zoya’s backstory with clichéd tropes, and she laid out how a person with Zoya’s upbringing, gifts, and particular ambition learns to make the most of what she encounters in her world. She explored the grief process of having made a life-altering decision, and choosing wrong, and having to come back from that. And with all of that, Zoya gained the human vulnerability that finally made her a real character, and not just an entertaining foil. She’s great. I love her.
I don’t mean to sell Nikolai and Nina short by comparison, but I kind of already knew I loved them (even though I hadn’t had Nikolai’s POV before either.) Nina is such a survivor, carrying on after THE TERRIBLE, UNFAIR THING THAT HAPPENED AT THE END OF CROOKED KINGDOM, and even though I’m super concerned that she’s acting a little unchecked and reckless and it’s going to get her in trouble, she’s just and loyal and has tremendous moral clarity even as she’s operating in a legal and political grey area. As for Nikolai, it’s almost like you forgot what happened to him at the end of the original trilogy, because their war was won and he seemed fine and the focus was on Alina anyway. But nope! His battle with his literal inner demon is ongoing and it seems like he is losing. Like with Zoya, there was a lot to be learned about who Nikolai is in his inner core as he struggled with maintaining his sense of self.
So, yeah. Happy with this and looking forward to more.