Published: 19th June 2014
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Trigger warnings: Suicide, sexual references
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
The first two instalments of the Shadow and Bone trilogy were highly enjoyable for the most part, but sadly the conclusion did not totally deliver. Although the world building becomes even more roundly defined and the writing again displays the ideal blend of witty and meaningful passages, the story was lacking in terms of plot and did not always make for fulfilling reading.
There were occasional moments where I was enthralled and looking ahead with anticipation for what was to happen next, but these were usually only fleeting as events unfolded with no great cohesion in a build-up to the inevitable final confrontation between protagonist Alina and the Darkling. This in itself felt slightly rushed, as other character arcs were given greater prominence.
Following the destructive events at the end of Siege And Storm, Alina and the remainder of Ravka’s Second Army are staying at the White Cathedral under the close supervision of the Apparat, a mysterious priest who has lurked enigmatically in the background throughout this series and whose true allegiance is unclear. Her power has weakened, and she spends her time poring through the books of the Small Science.
Alina soon discovers the true extent of her connection to the Darkling, and the story behind the three Grisha amplifiers that she is in the midst of pursuing. This leads to some highly unexpected revelations about certain characters that become the basis for the rest of the story, and eventually culminate in a fairly powerful ending.
One of my favourite things about this book was the increased focus on Grisha mythology, which really enhanced the world building. This led to some really clever and inventive ideas, and I enjoyed getting to know more about the powers of each individual class. I also loved how the relationship between Alina and the Darkling turned into a psychological battle, which made for compelling reading.
However, there were also several things about the plot that I did not enjoy quite as much. Above all it just seemed to lack fluidity, and events just seemed to happen almost as if the author was making it up as she went. I liked some of the storytelling, but the pacing was questionable and too many chapters would drift by with little excitement.
The character development was slightly hit and miss. The Darkling is made to seem more human, and it was good to see more of a light shone on his insecurities, yet there is ultimately no hiding away from his evil. As for Alina, she definitely becomes assertive and more ruthless with her power, while the story of her romance with Mal often takes centre stage.
I have had problems with Mal as a character during this series, but here he probably does redeem himself to a certain extent. He at least remains by Alina’s side this time and is thrust right to the very centre of the plot. I really liked Genya’s story arc, but some other characters such as Adrik and Harshaw among others just existed with very little development.
It was also a shame for me that this book contained such little of Nikolai. He was the absolute highlight of Siege And Storm, so I was disappointed with the direction the plot went on to take as far as he was concerned. All the same, he is given a brilliant entrance here, and I love all of his flying machines.
The writing was at times very thoughtful, particularly in the way that certain previous passages gained extra significance later on. There was also a nice injection of humour and the extra depth given to Ravka provides the book with a strong sense of place. I was just not a fan of the pacing and the structure; they just did not have a very fine balance.
Overall, this was a trilogy that I quite enjoyed, and having read it I am even more excited now to see the upcoming Netflix adaptation. This final book certainly had its high points as it brought Alina’s story to a fascinating conclusion. I just would have liked it even more had the plot been a little bit more refined.
Not quite the brilliant final book of the trilogy that I was hoping for, but still a fairly entertaining read in parts.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐