The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite series to recommend to fans of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass books and Marie V. Snyder’s Poison Study books. The Grisha world is unique, with a Russian flair that I haven’t seen in YA before. The female protagonist doesn’t know her own potential and is desperately trying to hold on to a past that can never be regained. The traditional hero’s journey can be traced throughout each book and throughout the series, and the tests, allies, and enemies she encounters on her journey are never what they seem. I enjoyed the first book, but the second book really raises the bar regarding character development and plot complexity. It is exciting and engaging, and I think it is worth your time!
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alina thought she was ordinary and spent most of her days trying to decide if she was jealous of all the girls hanging on her only friend, Mal, until he is truly threatened. Then she unleashes unknown powers to protect him. This book completely captured my imagination! It is in my classroom library and many of my readers are engaged in this series.
Goodreads summary of Shadow and Bone
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alina has escaped and is on the run with Mal, but the Darkling isn’t going to just let her go, and she isn’t sure she will ever really escape the bond he forced between them. This book raised the bar on character development. It also introduced a new character who is a nice foil to Mal. I enjoyed it more than the first. It’s a popular book in my classroom library, and I think it is really the best of the series. Appropriate language and situations for 7th grade and up!
Goodreads summary for Siege and Storm
Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. (less)
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a satisfactory ending to the series. A lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing all the way through the book. The second book raised the bar regarding character complexity and plot development, and this book did the same again. I devoured it in a few hours. Language and sensuality appropriate for tweens and teens. It was an imaginative and exciting series that I proudly display in my classroom library.
Goodreads summary for Ruin and Rising
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.