Monday, August 5, 2013

The Grisha Trilogy, book 1 and 2 by Leigh Bardugo

Book One - Shadow and Bone

Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev were both orphaned by the border wars. Duke Keramsov, a celebrated war hero, converted his estate into an orphanage and a home for war widows. It was here that Alina and Mal come to live and study for over ten years before leaving to train for their military service. Alina is training to become a cartographer and harbor a secret crush on her childhood companion. Mal has become an expert tracker and turns the head of many a girl. Over a year into their service, Mal has grown distant in the past several months. Tonight he knows that Alina is worried about crossing the Shadow Fold in the morning, just as he is.

The Shadow Fold or “the Unsea” is a thick, dark massive cloud that separates Ravika from its only coastline. Legend has it that a mad Darkling created it hundreds of years earlier. Growing every year, the impenetrable darkness is home to unspeakable horrors that include volcra, large blind winged creatures with rows of razor-sharp teeth. It is believed that they can smell human blood. Alina and Mal have good reason to be nervous about crossing the Fold. Not everyone survives the journey through to West Ravika and the True Sea. Once there, Mal and Alina will go on different paths and she hopes that they can find some way to always be friends.

They will be crossing the Unsea on sand skiffs, powered and protected by various Grisha. The Grisha are practitioners of Small Science that along with the King’s Army keep the country and kingdom safe. Mal and Alina believed the Grisha were witches when they were children. Moving silently in complete darkness, Alina doesn’t know how long they have been traveling when the skiffs are attacked by a large number of volcra. Huddled with Alexei, another junior cartographer, Alina is distraught when he is ripped from her grasp. Then she finds herself attempting to fight off another volcra. Mal comes to her aid when he shoots and injures it. Alina sees it claw Mal’s chest before he can reload his rifle. She attacks the volcra, giving Mal time to shoot it. Alina screams when she sees Mal’s injuries. Crying, she tries to stop the flow of blood. The Grisha are growing weaker and two volcra have Mal and Alina in their sights. She struggles with one before Mal is able to shoot it. He then collapses to the deck of the skiff. Alina shields his body before the next attack and he whispers, “I’ll meet you in the meadow.” Attacked again and in pain, Alina falls unconscious as the sky lights up.

Waking up, Alina finds herself being held prisoner and no one will tell her what has happened to Mal. The skiff has turned back to Kribirsk and left the Fold. She is marched back to camp and eventually finds herself led into the Grisha tent. She is taken to the Darkling, the Grisha commander and is surprised that he doesn’t look much older than her, even though he has been in command since before she was born. Fascinated by him, some of her companions from the skiff are brought in and she sees that Mal survived the attack. The captain reports on the attack and recalls seeing a blaze of light. Several others agree and Alina remembers that as well. He doesn’t recall seeing Alina but the Senior Cartographer saw Alina light up. The room erupts and a beautiful Grisha who had the eye on Mal earlier is disbelieving that Alina could be a rare Sun Summoner. The Darkling regains control of the crowd and goes to Alina. He asks Mal what he saw. Light, but it couldn’t have come from Alina. They grew up together and he would have known if she had powers. Alina tells the Darkling that there must be some kind of mistake. She did nothing.
Tired of wasting time, the Darkling decides to test Alina. Calling up a black cloud, Alina is plunged into darkness. Her fear is soon replaced by something calm and powerful. She pushes it back down but the Darkling realizes that she is hiding something. He cuts her arm and before she can stop herself, the room erupts with light. The Darkling grabs Alina before she can fall. He orders his guard to take her to the Little Palace and surround her with armed guards at all times. Get a healer for her wounds. Saying it is all a mistake, the Darkling tells Alina that she has no idea what she really is. Dragged away, the Darkling reminds the guards that she is now a Grisha. The last thing she sees is Mal and his face mirroring the panic and confusion of her own.

Whisked away before an assassin can find her, Alina barely escapes death a second time. Protected by the Darkling for the remainder of the journey, they arrive weeks later in Os Alta. Alina struggles with her new life at the Little Palace. Unable to summon her magic at will, she feels like a failure. She rarely sees the Darkling. Knowing that she is the Darkling’s best hope for opening up the Fold, everyone in the Palace is watching her. She hasn’t heard back from all of the letters she has written Mal and wonders if she will ever see him again. But when the Grisha who admired Mal back in Kribirsk arrives at the Little Palace, Alina quickly realizes who the enemy is.

Will Alina ever be able to summon and control her powers? Can she help the Darkling with the Shadow Fold? Why is he virtually ignoring her at the Little Palace? Will she ever see Mal again? Who is the beautiful Grisha? Is she a friend or foe? And who can Alina really trust?

The Tailor
(The Grisha trilogy book 1.5) is a free short story available at the Grisha Trilogy Facebook page, which tells a crucial scene from Genya’s point of view.

 Book Two - Siege and Storm

SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read any further if you haven’t read Shadow and Bone in its entirety.

“Darkness never dies.”
Alina and Mal’s freedom from the Darkling is short-lived when he finds them in a dilapidated boardinghouse in Cofton. Putting up a good fight, Alina is overtaken by the Darkling’s new power that he received when she left him behind in the Shadow Fold. Kept unconscious for a week, the Darkling has the aboard a whaler. Thinking he is taking them back to Ravika, it is not too long before the Darkling lets them in on his plans. Using Mal for his tracking skills, he is hunting the legendary Sea Whip or the ice dragon Rusalye. The Sea Whip is Morozova’s second amplifier. Threatening Alina to get Mal to work, Sturmhond, the privateer the Darkling hired, tells him the girl won’t be harmed while on his ship. The Darkling informs him that he works for him. Later, Sturmhond refuses to help Mal and Alina escape.

It takes Mal six days to find Rusalye. Sturmhond’s crew harpoons it during the chase. In the confusion, two crew members, Tolyn and Tamar, work to free Mal and Alina. When Ivan tries to stop them, Alina realizes that the two of them are Grisha, heart renders like Ivan. But in the epic showdown, Tolyn and Tamar are able to kill Ivan and leave the ship. Sturmhond has a second ship waiting. His crew, which turns out is composed of several Grisha, load Rusalye onboard. Mal and Alina make it to the awaiting ship. Allina’s hands are freed in time to fight the Darkling. After a harrowing battle, Sturmhond’s ship is able to escape the Darkling. Mal and Alina are left to wonder what they have gotten themselves into.

Who is Sturmhond? Why is he helping Alina and Mal? Will she take the amplifier from Rusalye? Why are Grisha working for Sturmhond? What will happen when the Darkling finds them?

The Grisha trilogy concludes with Rot and Ruin in 2014.

The Witch of Duva (book 0.5) and The Too-Clever Fox (book 2.5) are two companion folk tales that take place in Ravika.

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