***Warning: SPOILERS for previous books in the series!***
In the aftermath of the battle at Os Alta, the Darkling now sits on the Ravkan throne, and Alina and her followers have gone underground. Literally — they’re hiding out in a system of tunnels and caves beneath Ravka, where they are temporarily under the protection of the Apparat. But the Apparat has his own agenda: he wants Alina to serve as a figurehead for the loyal but uninformed peasants who believe she is a saint. Alina can’t submit to such a plan, especially when the Darkling is continually expanding his empire through the use of dark magic. But once she and her loyal allies escape, Alina knows she isn’t strong enough to defeat the Darkling, especially since she can no longer access her power. She decides to seek a third amplifier for her magic, the legendary firebird, and her sole clue leads her back to the village from which she and Mal originally came…but what she finds there will challenge everything she has ever believed.
Like the other two books in the trilogy, this is a well written novel with great world-building and an interesting plot. But I still find myself liking rather than loving these books. As I mentioned in my review of Shadow and Bone, I think my issue is that I don’t particularly like or relate to Alina as the main character. She seems to be entirely motivated by her momentous quest to defeat the Darkling, and outside of that, there’s not a lot of complexity to her character. I also don’t care about Mal, the main love interest, at all. He’s basically there to be dreamy and help Alina whenever the plot calls for it, and he doesn’t really have a personality outside of that. I found the secondary characters much more interesting, especially Nikolai — I’d love for him to get his own book at some point! I did enjoy the resolution of the plot and found the ending very satisfying. Overall, I wasn’t bowled over by this trilogy, but I’d still recommend it to YA fantasy fans.