So, let’s go over the good thing before I get to the bad: Nikolai. The second son of the King of Ravka, aka SPOILERS the privateer Sturmhond END SPOILERS. That character stole every scene he was in, and breathed life into the pretty much dead on arrival story. He was the lone bright spot in what was otherwise a dull book. I can see why she’s giving him his own series.
And now the bad.
1. The characters almost to a one irritate me, and the ones that don’t, I don’t really have feelings for one way or another.
2. Nothing happens in this book between page fifty and page 400. It just felt like wallowing, with lots of melodrama and love quadrangleness.
3. Love quadrangles! SPOILERS I thought we were shot of the Darkling as any kind of love interest last book after he turned out evil, but there’s still a thread of that hanging on, and then when Nikolai is introduced Alina’s got yet another love interest. As much as I love that kid, no. And at least we’re pretty sure Alina doesn’t love him either. The stuff with Mal nearly killed me, see below END SPOILERS.
4. Alina is put in charge of the second army????? Ooooookay.
5. There was some dark stuff in here, but it felt like it was thrown in there in an attempt to differentiate this from every other YA fantasy out there, and it didn’t really work. It still feels really generic and underbaked to me. Bardugo’s got all these great ideas, but she committed herself to this story, which is not a great vehicle for her or those ideas.
6. Mal sucks. The drama between he and Alina feels manufactured. I am 100% unclear why they can’t just be together and support each other and that’s because the only reason they are apart is to create tension in the story. Please raise your hand if you think there is any way we aren’t getting out of this trilogy without them being together. It was just inane. And Mal comes across like a dick most of the time. Bardugo would have been much better off creating tension elsewhere in the story, and just letting them love each other without melodrama being involved.
[I have REVIEW AMNESTIED the third book as of this writing. So no review forthcoming on #3, which I liked better, but still didn’t like all that much.]
I hope her new book coming out in October is great so I can wash the taste of this series out of my mouth. [It was. Review forthcoming on that one.]