Okay, this is an important moment. My first ever booktalk. If you’re looking for spoiler-free content, this isn’t the place. However, let me redirect you to a spoiler-free book review for the very same book- it’s right here.
I have everything prepared- a list of bookmarks throughout the book, a cuppa tea and the proper writing mood. Everything is set, so let’s get cracking. Don’t expect any structure from this post, though. I’ll just take the events in their order of occurrence.
Final warning- there are spoilers ahead.
The first scene I noted was the one after the discovery that Alina is a Sun Summoner.
“Ivan,” called the Darkling, “mind your tone. She is Grisha now.”
The scolding the Darkling gave Ivan fit so perfectly in that exact moment. I feel like up to that point, we were shown the extravagance and arrogance of the Grisha, but we were never shown how you can embarrass one, let alone scold a Grisha as one would scold a child. It gave dimension to both Ivan’s and the Darkling’s character. It also set in stone the condescending way some Grisha view people without magic- otkazat’sya, literally meaning ‘the Abandoned’.
The next scene I bookmarked was the one where the Darkling makes that specific joke about the Grand Palace.
He looked at me, a little smile playing on his lips. “I think it’s the ugliest building I’ve ever seen,”
Again, this serves to characterize the Darkling. By this point in the book, I felt like everything he did should be doubted. Turns out I was right, which I definitely did not enjoy.
Next up, I have three notes for the seventh chapter. The first two mark Alina’s first interaction with the King, specifically his superficiality. His first words upon seeing her are:
“She’s very plain.”
However, as soon as Alina showcased her power, he was all up in her business- that makes for one disgusting character that, although I thought brilliantly written as a weak pushover, he wasn’t at all up my alley. The King could be so easily manipulated and gotten rid of it’s a wonder no one did it before the Darkling.
The third note refers to the whole black kefta affair. Now, since things were moving so fast, you would have to be either inattentive or too immersed in the story not to realize something is wrong. No matter how rash the Darkling would be (which he shouldn’t be, given his position) trusting a girl he knew nothing of would have been a huge strategic issue. If I wasn’t suspicious enough already, the Darkling wanting Alina to have a black kefta definitely made me very suspicious. The Darkling’s willingness to give in to Alina wearing blue wasn’t reassuring either- by that time I was waiting for the worst to happen.
And it did. Moving swiftly through my next bookmark that involved the stag conversation, I saw red flags everywhere when the Darkling dropped the ‘trust me’ bomb.
“Because this was meant to be. The stag was meant for you, Alina. I can feel it.”
As Alina started developing feelings (were they even feelings? or just a messed up type of attraction?) for the Darkling, I knew things were going to end badly.
The next bookmark was the ah! moment of Alina finding it in her to release her powers. If you’ve read the spoiler-free review I published at the same time with this post, then you’ll know I’ve mentioned the love triangle sub-plot. It was starting to shape up by this point in the book, but I’m glad it didn’t reach an astronomical size. A character I’ve really started to enjoy around this time is Baghra- I still don’t know what to make of her, but I do hope she’s alive.
Ah, the next bookmark. The moment it all went to hell. You know what I’m talking about- the kiss. Once you read enough YA fantasies, you catch onto the fact that if the protagonist ends up with a character by the half of the first book in a long series, it won’t last. Slow burn is the way to go. A ship that sails at the middle of the first book will crash and burn by the end of the same book. And it did. Oh, how it did.
However, another one raised anchor. My next bookmark was based on the quite adorable moment between Mal and Alina.
“He rolled onto his side, muttered something in his sleep, and threw his hand over me. A minute later he started snoring again, but this time I didn’t wake him.”
I think around this time I let myself relax about the love triangle affair- even though Alina’s so-called feelings for the Darkling popped up then and again. It was a really fluffy scene, which leads me to the next fluffy scene, the kiss between Alina and Mal. More importantly, the conversation that took palce right before.
I did mention in my review that I didn’t saw Mal as a multi-dimensional character. And, for most of the book, I really didn’t. In this particular moment, however, he stood out to me. And of course it had to happen right before the stag appeared and then the Darkling appeared and everything happened all at once.
While I did like the entire ‘we-found-the-stag-but-the-Darkling-was-on-its-tail’ twist, I found the one where Alina was revealed as the actual owner of the collar quite exaggerated. It made sense and it didn’t- I wasn’t pleased with it. However, I managed to get over that quickly, just in time for my next bookmark.
The conversation about the Darkling between Alina and Ivan was the thing that drew me to Ivan’s character. On one hand, he’s extremely loyal to the Darkling but on the other, his reaction to Alina pointing the obvious about his master to him is quite cowardly. Just look:
“Keep talking treason and I’ll gag you.”
Is that really the thing to say to someone directly attacking your superior? Up until that moment, he’d completely fought against Alina’s words and then he just settled for a lame comeback? Something’s fishy right there.
Moving on, the next bookmark was my little “I told you so” moment when, after promising Alina he’d save Mal, the Darkling gives the order to murder him in the Shadow Fold. Not to sound arrogant or anything, but it wasn’t that hard to see how the Darkling was scheming right behind her back. All you needed was a little back mirror called common sense.
Now that I’ve finished being salty, the time has come for the last bookmark. Of course, everything settled just in time for this one, where Alina manages to escape with Mal from the Darkling’s wrath, only to be thrown into the probably unmerciful arms of the second book. I can say that I’ve started it and I’m hoping to finish it soon- however, I won’t spoil you any further.
This, my dears, concludes my first booktalk! I hope you enjoyed and definitely make sure to check out the review, if you haven’t already! Let’s use the comments section below as a way to further discuss the book- I’d love to hear your theories! Did I miss anything? No spoilers for the next two books or for anything else Grisha-related, however! I have to approve comments for them to show up and I won’t approve anything spoilery that’s not properly marked. Shop the book here and catch the author on the socials linked right below!
By the way, this month I’ll be doing Andrea’s Bookish July where I publish a post every day in July (find out all about it here). If you’re interested, make sure to keep updated- I’m posting regularly on my socials, too- find them below.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you tomorrow!