Orphan Alina Starkov has grown up believing she’s completely ordinary. Not particularly pretty or talented, she’s lived in the shadow of her best friend and fellow orphan Mal, who is handsome and popular and a talented tracker for the Ravkan army. But when Alina unexpectedly discovers that she has supernatural powers, her entire life changes in an instant. She is swept up into the world of the Grisha, an elite class of magicians who have the power to control everything from metals to tides to the human body. Alina herself has the ability to control sunlight, a rare and powerful magic that catches the attention of the Grisha’s commander, the mysterious Darkling. The Darkling encourages Alina to harness her power, telling her that she can change Ravka for the better. But in strengthening her magical abilities, will Alina end up losing the most essential part of herself?
After seeing a lot of hype for the Grisha trilogy around the Internet, I was excited to read these books but also nervous that they wouldn’t live up to their reputation. Overall, I enjoyed the trilogy, but I didn’t quite embrace it as wholeheartedly as many others have. This first book does a good job of setting the stage: the world of Ravka is robust and full of interesting details, and the central conflicts of the series are clearly established. I’m not sure how I feel about Alina as a character…she spends a lot of this book questioning herself and moping about her nonexistent love life. And yes, there’s something of a love triangle in the novel, but it’s eventually resolved in a very stark way. (In fact, I wish there had been a bit more ambiguity about it!) Fortunately, Alina does demonstrate some strength as the story progresses, and overall, I liked the book enough to pick up the second installment right away!