Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA, Romance, Fiction
Link to Goodreads: link
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 series ends in a whimper, but many YA series seem to feel that way—Maas, Clare, Cashore, even Sanderson sometimes. As far as this particular ending: most seem to love it or hate it.
I closed the final book and felt emptiness.
The Grishaverse is such a fun world, and it’s sad to leave it—but that doesn’t mean the journey/story was at all pleasant. It was so, so plotless.
The narrative just kind of wandered around, occasionally picking up stakes and then forgetting they’re there. I felt like I was standing behind Alina in a concert, craning my neck to try to get a glimpse of all the other characters I cared about more than her. Which is literally all of them.
Did Alina make herself smaller for Mal? Is the ending therefore problematic? The discussion floating around about this is really interesting. First, I think Bardugo kind of sidestepped that accusation by making it totally not up to Alina. She does go for all the power—and it gets taken away. And she acknowledges that that doesn’t feel great. Sometimes things end with a whimper.
My take: Alina didn’t grow enough throughout the series to have a different ending.
The flirting with power and immorality was kind of for nothing. She was just being a tease with it. Regardless, that girl from Shadow and Bone? Yeah, this is the ending for her. I don’t want her to be a queen. Give me (SINGLE AND READY TO MINGLE) Nikolai every. Single. Time.
So—why did many hate (including myself) the end?
It seemed like despite herself, Bardugo was rooting for Mal. Like maybe despite getting bored with him she just couldn’t drag Alina away from Mal for a second, even during the very few Darkling scenes in Ruin and Rising. So, while the length of the ending was gratuitous and boring, the ending itself just feels like a reflection of the characters and the series itself. Blah.
Final hot take: The Darkling is not the villian to get behind. I can think of many cooler villains with far better backstories and moral greyness. The grinch. Cardan Greenbriar. Circe. All of the Lannisters. The Darkling has been alive for centuries, has had plenty of opportunities to change, and still he made the premeditated decision to give Genya to a creepy, creepy king. And to completely control Alina. And much, much more. Y’all just like the Darkling because he’s sexy. He murders children, people. There’s a sexier too-sly fox prince right there to thirst over.I mean he’s kind of sexy sometimes but he still murders babies
However! Let none of this nebulous disappointment change the way you think about the Six of Crows duology, which is peak, perfect YA. Bardugo upped her game a thousandfold when she turned to Ketterdam.