In preparation for recently-released King of Scars, I’m taking a quick tour through the Grishaverse, the five (now six) YA fantasies by Leigh Bardugo. I tore through these books last month and couldn’t wait to get my thoughts down on paper.
This roundup won’t have much in the way of spoilers, but these mini-reviews also won’t set up the premise of the books. If you aren’t familiar with Bardugo’s books, I’d stop by Goodreads first.
I started with the Six of Crows duology and I’m very happy I did.
Six of Crows
In my (too) many hours on the bookish social internet, this book might just be the most hyped. I’ve had so many friends go completely bananas over this little novel. I bought a paperback and saved it as a reward for finishing a project, and ended up getting to it just after Christmas. I was excited, but preparing myself for it to fall a little short of the crazy hype.
And then. It. Didn’t.
I don’t know that there’s much for me to say that hasn’t already been said better. It’s a perfect jewel box of a book–not a page wasted. Gorgeous detail and effortless-feeling worldbuilding kept me distracted as the twists came. Just like a good heist. This is the squad book of my dreams.
This is exactly what I want from a sequel. The same dang thing, but more. More and better and darker and deeper. And it was. More action. More banter. More heists. Deeper dives into character relationships. Reckoning with the events of book one and trying to find a new way forward. Romance that made me forget I’m not still sixteen. Actual, honest stakes! Bless this book.
I know everyone and their mother would die for precious Inej, and I absolutely would too, but my heart lies with Nina. Her magical, curvy-girl badassery and tragic circumstances are everything I want and I cannot wait to see more of her in King of Scars, which I will buy for myself as soon as I finish a highly unpleasant project I need to stop putting off.
I read the Grisha trilogy next, mostly because I wanted to be ready for King of Scars. I’d been told that it wasn’t as good as SOC, and it wasn’t, but there’s still a lot to love.
Reading all the books so close together was an interesting little study of writing craft. You can practically see Bardugo’s skill developing before your eyes. This trilogy follows many tried-and-true YA fantasy/dystopia patterns, which is tiresome but makes the moments of true originality all the more striking. I think Bardugo had to write this before she could write SOC–she had the experience and practice, she had the platform, and she could move on to something truly special.
Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising
I’m going to review the trilogy all together, partly because I read them straight through and partly because there isn’t really a reason for them to be seperate books. I’m sure this story sells way better as a trilogy, but I think it makes far more sense for these to be three parts in one long, epic fantasy.
I am often turned-off by Chosen One stories, so this was a tough sell to me. Alina’s predictable journey is salvaged by her complex relationships with more interesting characters, namely Genya, Nikoli, and the Darkling, a great character with a dumb name.
I don’t have much problem believing in a love story just because I’m told to, but if you need convincing to follow a character into a ship, you’re going to be disappointed in Mal. There’s just not much there. The relationship takes on a very creepy, fascinating dimension when he starts to look at her as a sort of divine figure, but there’s not enough time to dig into that before the abrupt climax.
All told, there was some great action and inventive settings, but it was all a little undercooked to me.
Let me know what you think of Leigh Bardugo’s books in comments–but please, no King of Scars spoilers until I get my hands on it!