I am…….a little confused.
I read this book in less than a day, sometime between my lunch break and 10:00pm. I didn’t even read it secretly at my desk on my phone…so even for me that’s pretty fast. As a result, it’s possible I missed a few things… I’ll probably have to go back and check… But Into the Still Blue will be out in a few days and I’ll probably have to re-read all three of those first because, you know….I’m crazy.
This is why I had to start a blog in the first place…. my sister was completely fed up with my desperate need to discuss all the books she had ZERO time to read…which didn’t stop me from trying to force feed them to her anyway (only the really good ones of course).
Ok. So speed reading aside I think I might still be confused.
Although I can’t quite put my finger on why. I adore fantasy and this book told me a lovely fantasy story filled with beautiful imagery, rich language and unique magic. Perhaps I couldn’t decide if I loved Bardugo’s complex imaginative and colorful world or if I felt lost by the slightly incongruous collection vaguely recognizable time periods, cultures, religions etc. Are we supposed to feel like the story is set somewhere in our world? Russia? The middle east? Or is it a fictional place? When the characters speak of church and saints are they referring to a form of Christianity? Do these questions even matter??? I honestly don’t think they do but I spent a lot of time thinking about it while trying to reconcile Alina and Mal’s Victorianish childhood with the more modern army life and pure fantasy Grisha universe.
Then again maybe it was the relationships I struggled with….
Fun facts about me:
1. I am a total sucker for the sweet guy and I hate love triangles. Basically I am super boring.
2. In books (although maaaaaayyyybee not always in real life) I never ever fall for the hot bad guy. Ever.
3. I (almost) always want the heroine to end up with the character she fell in love with first. (I say almost because there was that whole Peeta thing in HG and I guess Gale was technically “first” but she wasn’t in love with either really and ANYONE could see Peeta was the wise choice)
Does anyone out there watch The Vampire Diaries? Or read the books? Well I’ve done both ( ALL the books are terrible…all 12 of them…they get worse as they go especially after the poor author was replaced but I read them ALL anyway…sometimes I embarrass myself) Anyway, I’m a Stefan fan..I just am. If a story teller sets me up with a R&J situation and then tries to pawn Juliette off on Paris or Romeo’s dark and mysterious older brother I am NOT a fan. Because Romeo without Juliette has no story!! The way these things are written there is never a back up plan for poor Romeo and he is just left to drift aimlessly (or die I suppose)
So IMAGINE my surprise when I started to root for the Darkling who, it turns out, really WAS the bad guy. UGH!!!
My universe has shifted a bit here.
I don’t even know if I liked the Darkling and I truly did like Mal!!! So what happened?
Well… I think perhaps Mal’s story was a little nondescript (yeah that’s right I’m blaming the good guy for my bad boy issues). We the reader didn’t really get to know him before Alina was carried off by the Darkling. Not to mention there was only that one little “meet me in our meadow” hint that Mal felt for Alina the way she felt for him. Sadly when we meet Mal again the playful charm he had in the first chapters is gone and he’s all wounded and angry which could have made him interesting but honestly turned out a little bland. (I like vanilla and all but it’s best to put some sprinkles on these things!….Ok I’m lying …I HATE vanilla ice cream….CHOCOLATE or nothing but you get the point)
The Darkling on the other hand is a pretty fascinating character! At the end of the book I was left curious about his story and wondering if the author might be setting him up for redemption somewhere down the line. Bad guys with enough humanity to question their nefarious choices and even feel snatches of guilt really are the best kind! It’s fun for readers to wonder if they might be saved or if they will be consumed by the “Dark Side” Star Wars ref whhhhaattt??? Vader is of course, the ultimate redeemable bad guy and he and the Darkling do seem to have a lot in common!
So anyway I kept waiting to fall in love with Mal but it just didn’t happen perhaps in the next book??
I think I might also have been thrown/confused by the suggestion the author seemed to be making that no one really noticed Alina (including Mal) until her powers made her more beautiful (or she was fixed up by Genya). I don’t know how to feel about this. On the one hand I rather liked the idea that her power made her healthier and stronger. I just wish there had been a tiny bit less focus on how men responded to her beauty or lack thereof. While I don’t believe it’s necessary for all the girly fantasy stories out there have to have carefully crafted messages to young women Alina is already a fantastically engaging character. Armed with her witty banter and bullheadedness it was easy to believe people would be drawn to her with or without shiny hair.
Confusion aside I still really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to any fantasy fan, it reminded me a little of Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword (one of my all time favorite books) in a good way. The world is unique and exciting and I am anxious to see how the story will develop.
Aside: Can I tell you how much I HATE waiting for sequels to come out….It is possible that I’m not the most patient creature ever created and it would probably be best if I just waited until all the books are published before I start a series (I swear the Harry Potter years almost did me in). Right now I have 3 unfinished series I am waiting for and I might go nuts!