This is the last Leigh Bardugo book for awhile, or at least until the sequel to Six of Crows comes in at my library, but if you have been reading these reviews I must emphasize: please seek out her books. They are fun, the fantasy world is fantastic, and the few elements that cater to the teens can be overlooked by adults.
There are also spoilers ahead. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series you may want to do so first, and my reviews are also up for Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm if you would like to read them.
Our heroes are trapped by the Apparat, the former religious counselor to the on the run King of Ravka, and he has gathered many of the faithful who believe Alina is a living Saint and has turned them into the Soldat Sol – the solders of the Sun Summoner. They worship and train underground in safety from the Darkling, but after her encounter with him at the end of the second book, Alina cannot summon without being in view of sunlight. They escape, she gets her power back, they reunite with Nicolai and the royal family, things feel right for awhile, things go terribly wrong all of a sudden.
Then they go for the firebird, the third amplifier that should give Alina enough power to vanquish the Darkling and erase the Unsea from the face of Ravka. Mal and Alina believe it is located at the place of their birth, but when they get there and discover an actual firebird, they make a horrible discovery that will alter the course of their quest in a heartbreaking way.
I have to say that reading these books was interesting for me. Large swaths of the book were traveling or details that reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. You have to be patient through some of the story because the action makes your patience totally worth it. What I would say in addition to this in praise of Bardugo’s writing is that her endings are totally worth it. Guys, the ending to this book made me so happy I cried a little. It was perfect in every possible way. They win, but not without sacrifice, which makes it feel more real and less convenient. There is redemption and reunion, which makes the end feel full and not disappointing. Perhaps what makes Bardugo’s ending strongest is her push into the after. All too often books have heroes staring into the wreckage, happy to be safe and together, glad to put everything behind them and then…fade to black.
Not so here. We get to see the Unsea burned away and how people rejoice and venture into its aftermath to explore and reunite with their fellow Ravkans. We see Nicolai claiming the throne and attempting to rebuild Ravka and protect it from its surrounding foes. We see Alina and Mal creating a new life together. The beauty of what they do with their former orphanage where they grew up made me want to go buy an old fixer upper immediately and get a bunch of kids to run around and make it muddy. It was absolutely…I don’t have a word. It made my heart smile. Truthfully I think I needed to read a happy ending with all of the crap going on in the world right now. It felt good to see that someone could get what made them happy, even if it did have a cost.
These are fast reads. If you had some time on your hands you could probably rip through all of them in a week and be ready to dive into the more intricate Six of Crows. And you’ll want to, because there is a hint of a stranger who brings gifts to the orphanage who never takes off his gloves…