*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!
Now after my post on why originality is overrated, I thought it might be fun to flip my argument on its head and talk about some unoriginal ideas I don’t like. Partly cos I’m a HYPOCRITE but mostly cos it’s FUN! Also I recently read this book:
I’m not gonna bother reviewing it, because frankly I don’t want to waste more time on it than I already have and there is literally nothing *new* I could possibly say about it. It was pretty much the definition of bland. So instead I’m gonna take this opportunity to talk about my least favourite tropes in YA.
*Rather-Obvious-Disclaimer: there are exceptions to every rule*
And honestly- I love to be proved wrong and find one of my most hated tropes done well. But *most of the time* these guarantee an eye roll or a despairing groan. So here are my top ten worst YA tropes with a few of the biggest culprits as examples:
- Special Snowflake Main Character– this one often combines two of my least favourite tropes: the Chosen One and the “I’m a what?” tropes. Basically this character is super special, because they have a gift that no one else has, so they’re gonna save the world. Oh and they had no idea that they’re special- of course. In fairness, there are rare occasions when this doesn’t suck- but they are few and far between, so authors need to *stop using this trope* (unless you’re writing something like Carry On, then all is forgiven). An example of this is the Essence series- because my-oh-my this character is a special snowflake indeed.
- Instalove– I’m gonna try and not let this dissolve into another rant like the last one- but c’mon!! When does this ever happen in real life?!? And let’s face it, it wouldn’t even be a good thing if it did- it would be super weird and creepy if your boyfriend of two days started declaring his undying love for you! That’s when you need to get a restraining order- *not* to start ordering wedding invitations. I’m looking at The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and so many others!
- The Plain Jane– I *hate* these characters. Not only do they come across as super whiny and annoying- but they also make no sense. I mean, they’re supposed to simultaneously be the ugliest of all the ducklings *AND* be the most desirable female with every single guy in the vicinity desperate to have your babies. Sorry, but to quote Cinderella Story:
The best example of this is Ana Steel in Fifty Shades of Grey. And all those hoards of attractive males brings me onto my next point.
- The Love Triangle– ahh the dreaded love triangle. Twilight made it popular and for some horrendous reason it hasn’t gone anywhere. Why? I have *no idea*. This bloody thing is everywhere and one of the worst offenders of this is Matched. Basically, it’s just an easy (and terribly lazy) way for authors to pad their plot with unbearable amounts of angst, as their main character frets over which wonderful person they’re going to spend the rest of their life with. And while we’re on the subject of the main character…
- The Nice-ty Main Character- you know the nice/nasty ones that kill you with kindness (you know the type). This is basically the main character who is allowed to be a total biatch, just because they’re so “lovely”. And we are constantly reminded how sweet and caring they are as they mess around two guys at once, two time and generally act like a whiny cow. And all the while, it’s somehow the guy’s fault that they can’t figure out their feelings. The perfect example is America in The Selection, because let’s face it she’s a right *insert-expletive-here*, but we’re supposed to believe she’s wonderful and completely selfless. Really? It’s totally selfless of her to spend 3 books choosing between two guys, is it?
- Douchbag Love Interests– and when we don’t have the horrible female leads, we have the horrible male love interest (sometimes we’re really lucky and get both, *ahem, Twilight*). These, often controlling, usually bullying and always brooding characters somehow steal the heart of the main character (*ahem, Twilight*- I could probably call this “the Edward Cullen Trope” after all). It’s like a recipe for domestic abuse. But hey, they’re good looking, so we shouldn’t worry about any of that. *Face palm*. And while we’re still on the subject of love, this is something that really drives me crazy:
- Pretentious Characters That Recite Reams of Poetry– I’ve read a few lists ions ago, but haven’t seen this one about- probably cos most people like this. But honestly this just does my head in. I have never met anyone that does this in real life, but I swear, if I ever met someone that reciting whole poems was a good idea, I’d probably want to hit them too. Basically, this makes me violent- don’t do it, unless you want a banana aimed at your head. I could think of a ton of examples where this happens- Infernal Devices (although admittedly I like that anyway), The Bronze Horseman (yeuch!) and John Green makes so many pretentious references he may as well do it.
- Non-Absentee Absent Parents– okay, moving on from the romance in YA, this one bugs me quite a bit. I’m being fairly specific here, because I don’t mean the dead parents trope, which I don’t actually mind so much- even if it is overused. No, this one bugs me because it just makes the parents look really dumb. Basically, they’re the parents that are about but they’re so useless, they can’t tell their children have been entertaining demons in their room. Or even worse, the parents that know something is wrong, but still let their children run off to fight monsters. And cos I’m zonked, the best example I can think of is Aunt Jenna in Vampire Diaries (I know, I know, I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead). This often combines with…
- The Dumbledore– you know, the parent/teacher figure that withholds information for mysterious *reasons*. Just because the author doesn’t want to reveal stuff too early. Usually, it’s parents who knew their child had powers but didn’t tell them. Often, they find out their parents knew all along after they have some near-death experience. Which always makes me wonder why on earth didn’t they tell them sooner- you know, maybe they could have avoided all this. It just makes me think they need parenting lessons, cos there are some secrets- like your father’s an evil maniac- that parents shouldn’t keep from their children. Much as I love the series, Mortal Instruments is guilty of this.
- Stupid Names For Evil Characters– so I don’t always hate this and I can forgive it most of the time (let’s be honest, I’m guilty of it too). I mean, I have to allow for the fact that dumb names like the “Dark Lord” or “THE EVIL ONE” will catch on when regular people are naming them. And this is usually okay if the villain has an alternative name (ie Voldemort). *BUT* what I cannot forgive is when the main character cannot tell that the guy with the obviously evil name is evil. And how no one else in the story picks up on it- I’m looking at you “Darkling”- how was that a surprise when he turned out to be evil for crying out loud?
Okay that’s my list. I almost put “The Brave Idiot” on here too- but I’ve warmed to that character in recent times, because I’ve read quite a few that are really good.
Agree? Disagree? What are your least favourite YA tropes? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you liked this post- stay tuned for something special coming next on my blog…