1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Too many clichés ruin a perfectly good fantasy,
This review is from: The Gathering Dark: The Grisha 1 (Paperback)
I hate to admit it, but I was a little disappointed by The Gathering Dark (or Shadow and Bone, to use its US title). When I found it in the library, I thought I'd unearthed a real treasure of a book, a dark and chilling fantasy that would have me reading at all hours of the day and night. And while it was on the whole enjoyable and interesting, I could have put it down at any point without worrying about what happened.
The story takes place in a fantasy country called Ravka, where a dark void called The Shadow Fold filled with dangerous monsters is destroying the land. The hope everyone has been waiting for comes in the form of our heroine Alina, an orphan and mapmaker who goes from being always overlooked to the centre of attention when she discovers that she has a unique power to summon light. Her power puts her among the Grisha, the magical elite, each with their own specific power. Leader of the Grisha is the Darkling, a young-looking man who Alina can't help but feel drawn to with his mysterious power to summon the dark. He whisks her off to the Palace to live a lavish life among the Grisha, protected from Ravka's enemies who wish to harm the only hope the country has to rid themselves of the Shadow Fold.
When I picked up this book I was enthusiastic and excited. There's definitely plenty of fascinating invented history and mythology for this land; it wasn't lacking in fantasy or imagination and I loved the idea of the Grisha and their different coloured robes (Keftas) depending on what their power was. At times it did become hard to follow because the world and the words invented by Bardugo, mostly describing the different types of Grisha, weren't always explained properly, but the world Bardugo has created and the idea of the Grisha was interesting enough for that not to matter. The last third of the book was just as intriguing; I won't spoil the plot for you but there was a great adventure and a mission to the save world!
The disappointment was the middle part of the book, which told of Alina's time at the Little Palace, where the Grisha live. Alina comes here to learn properly how to be a Grisha, but at this point the plot and the fantasy gave way to school politics. It became thoroughly unoriginal: the new student with an amazing power, far better than anyone else's, who couldn't get to grips with it and came to the conclusion that she was worthless and didn't belong with her schoolmates (which seemed pretty similar to the House of Night series for one), favourite of the male teacher who she and all the girls have a crush on (again, House of Night, also Divergent). Alina as a character got completely lost at this point. Where she had started as quiet but feisty, she suddenly became completely insecure and as she spent pages describing how little she thought of herself, I found my opinion of her going down too. But I hate giving up on books so I continued to read, particularly tempted by the front cover which promises "A dark heart. A pure soul. A love that will last forever.", hoping that perhaps there would be an incredible romance between the Darkling and Alina beneath the main plot. Sadly all the claims for romance on the cover are over-hyped, so don't pick this up expecting an enchanting love story.
The other problem for me was the villain of the story. It was a twist that I saw coming and that left me feeling incredibly disappointed because it was far too easy to make this person the villain. For me it would have been a greater story if the villain had been someone far more unexpected, perhaps someone cleverly crafted into the background of the story. Even worse was Alina's confrontation with the villain, where said villain had a typical maniacal moment where they divulged their plan and chided the hero (Alina in this case) for believing them. The villain was probably my biggest problem with this book, and its thanks to that plot device that I even have to ask the following question: will I be reading the sequel? The answer, I'm afraid to say, is probably not.