*Spoilers for Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows– cos I just can’t talk about this without mentioning them- so if you haven’t read those why not?!*
Returning to the Grishaverse after two successful series was always going to be no small feat- thankfully Bardugo delivers an intriguing instalment that definitely made me want to read on. With Bardugo’s trademark elegant writing style, the story opens on a dark night that sets the scene for much of what is to come. We are soon reintroduced to an eclectic cast who are bound to have us rooting for them.
The titular character Nikolai is, of course, marvellous- for much of the book, I found his story about overcoming the monster within him was the most compelling. I was admittedly only invested in Nina’s story while the book explored her grief for Matthias and my interest in her storyline waned as the book progressed. That said, Zoya was a true dark horse for me- I initially didn’t warm to her but by the end I *loved* her!!! She quickly turned from a former antagonist to one of the most compelling characters of the series. Her backstory was done remarkably well and her plotline gave her a lot of chances to truly shine.
When I was around Nikolai and Zoya, the book flew by. Journeying with them into the Fold, I enjoyed their exploration of folktales and the brilliant twist around the midpoint that arose from this. I particularly admired how this allowed for the development of Grisha powers in a cool way. Also, the explanation for “why Grisha” is finally given (which gave me the sense Bardugo was answering a very old question). I’d definitely say that every plot beat fell precisely as it should, like a set of staged dominoes after a really good flick, which does lead me onto some more spoilery stuff that you’ll have to highlight to see…
The big finale twist isn’t much of a twist. The return of the Darkling is foreshadowed so heavily that it felt inevitable. That said, I did actually like that Bardugo doesn’t just tease doing something cool, she does it (which is a shift from her earlier books). Plus, on the positive side, I liked the how of the Darkling being brought back and didn’t see the betrayal coming. Still, I’m not quite certain I think bringing back a villain who’s already been defeated was the right way to go- although I will wait to see how it plays out in the next book before making my mind up. And to be honest, I’m just glad the same thing Matthias didn’t also escape death- firstly because two in one book would’ve been a bit much and secondly because I’m not keen on being robbed of my endings (especially when that ending really landed for me).
Overall, while imperfect as the king, this did give us a glimpse of shadows and divinity peeking through. I’d say this isn’t as good as Six of Crows, but it’s better than Shadow and Bone. And now I want the next one!
Rating: 4/5 bananas
So are you into the Grishaverse? Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!