Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Gathering Dark (The Grisha #1), Leigh Bardugo

the gathering dark leigh bardugoTitle: The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo (author website | blog)
Release Date: June 2012 by Indigo/Hachette Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star5 star

Every now and then you fall in love with a book (I do, too, for that matter). The kind of love for which the stars align and angels sing on high. It may be perfect, or perhaps its imperfections make it so. Nevertheless, it calls to you, something inside it sounding in recognition, and you know the weight of true love. This book, the one you fall for, flaws and all, or despite its blinding perfection, is the hardest to discuss and review. How do you communicate the depth of that affection in a few brief sentences? Well, I suppose you gush—you've been warned.
From Goodreads:
Sweeping, glorious fantasy romance about an orphan who must save her kingdom from the seductive and terrifying Darkling. The most compelling romance since Twilight.The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?

shadow and bone leigh bardugo‘Like calls to like’, is the mantra of the Grisha, the powerful mages reviled and worshipped in the country of Ravka, a reimagined, fantasy Russia. And so it is, like called to me from the heart of The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone, touching something deeper than an intellectual appreciation alone. Bardugo’s debut struck a chord with me, still humming with the long keening echo that remains after the sound.

We’ve heard similar stories before: Simple, ordinary girl discovers extraordinary powers and is drawn into danger and intrigue and Destined To Save The World, and, at its simplest, this is the tale of The Gathering Dark, also. Alina Starkov, orphan—cartographer in the King’s Army—and best friend to a boy who is not so different to herself, discovers a power her people have awaited for centuries. It turns out she is rather different, afterall—she is a Grisha.

‘Grisha’ are a part of life in Ravka, able to wield fire, water, or air; heal with a glance; or rip a heart from a chest. The most powerful of them can control darkness itself, and he stands alone, ruling them all: The Darkling. And the Darkling, powerful and compelling, has been waiting for Alina longest of all. He believes that, together, they will change the world.

He is not wrong. He seldom is.

For all The Gathering Dark’s treasures, from its ‘everygirl’ heroine, to its charming cast of secondary characters, it is this Darkling that shines the brightest, despite his name, and not for inspiring schoolgirl crushes alone. Compelling and enigmatic, he is, to quote another reviewer, “one of the most amazingly crafted, heartbreaking characters of YA.” It’s rare I find a character gets so deep under my skin I’m still feeling him hours and days later, itching like phantom limbs.

Darklings aside—especially when they are not our narrators—The Gathering Dark boasts a strong, admirable protagonist, as any good fantasy should, but her strength is internal, despite crippling self-doubt. Alina is likeable and capable, and the ease with which her voice flows through the novel’s pages adds to its pull. What captured me most was the intensity of feeling she shared with me, the reader; how she drew me into friendships and romances I felt passionately about.

While the world of The Gathering Dark is immersive and lovely, strange and foreign, it’s a largely character driven tale, but then, the beginnings of most heroes’ journeys are. That aside, the Russian inspiration of the world of Ravka lends it a new and exciting texture, unique from the European-themed high fantasies which have long dominated the genre.

The Verdict

I’m not sure I believe in perfect books, not really. For me, ‘perfect’ is utterly subjective; a feeling, not a fact. "Perfect", to me, is the book which captures my imagination, and something deeper, more profound—the kind of book I would read as a child and search deep inside myself afterwards, looking for hidden powers, and perhaps still do in adulthood. Filled with mystery, wonder, magic and dread, The Gathering Dark is precisely such a book.

Books in This Series:

  • The Gathering Dark (AU/UK) / Shadow and Bone (US) June 2012

  • The Shadow Fold (AU/UK) / Siege and Storm (US) June 2013

An enormous thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


  1. YESSSSSSS. ♥ *bounces up and down*

    The Darkling was definitely the best character in the book, despite the fact that he's the villain. Honestly, I think some of his charm and seduction might have filtered through the pages and into me. He's the kind of character that you know practically nothing about, and yet he ensnares you with every word he says.

    It was also amazing how humane Leigh made Alina. I find that most of the time, protagonists in YA books nowadays are kind of on the 'heroic' side - and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just that I find it harder to relate to them, because they're always so sure, so confident. Alina was more down-to-earth, and I really liked that.

    And of course: the world building. Spectacularly stunning. Leigh Bardugo is definitely a master at crafting wonderful tales!

    Lovely review, Sarah! It's been a long time since I saw you on the blog, so it's good to know you weren't gone for good, haha. :P

  2. Why oh why does it have diff names for diff countries?? So weird. I never seen that before.

    Okay, I have been going back and forth on whether to buy this one. It never really sounded like my cup of tea but sweet baby cheeses, you make me want to read this so bad. I think I will have to take a chance and read it.

    Great review.

  3. Sarah! You're back! (in case you hadn't noticed)
    Sounds like you connected with this one a bit more than I did - but I love how much you love it, especially the verdict part :-)
    I loved the imagery in this - especially the contrast between Alina's army life and then the obscene wealth of the court, and the way that Bardugo makes all these characters that I thought were going to be significant/insignificant/good/bad the exact opposite.
    Time to hunt down more Russian-esque fantasy? :-D

  4. I think you did a great job with your review. Mine review will be up somewhere this week. I freaking loved this book. It's definitely one of my favorites from this year already. Like you, I really liked Alina and I connected with her. She is strong and vulnerable at the same time. And you got to love The Darkling :D

  5. Oh. My. Gosh. This one was so fantastic and I'm DYING for the second in the series (smart you, reading the first not too far before the second's released. You have less wait time!). I agree -- definitely as close to perfection as I've read in a while.

  6. The different names for different countries always throws me off track. I've been waiting to read this book!! Mostly I've been making myself get through some other books before getting sucked into this series. I just know I'm going to love it.

  7. Oh so it The Gathering Dark in Australia too! I always see Shadow and Bone and here (UK) I haven't seen it around very much aside from online! But I have heard some brilliant reviews for this book. I didn't read all your review as I didn't want to spoil it for myself! I need to get around to it soon! The characters sound amazing! Great review, Sarah! :)

  8. MEGAN! ♥
    Yessss, it's been a pretty crazy month, but it's good to talk to everyone again!

    "The Darkling was definitely the best character in the book, despite the fact that he’s the villain."

    THIS! And I still can't bring myself to admit that he's the villain. I have EPIC DARKLING FEELS O__O

  9. Hmmm... well, it's Russian inspired, but definitely not Russia, and the surround countries, geographically, would make no sense. I was going to bring up a fantasy comparison to David Edding's Belgariad, but I don't think it'd make any sense :P

    I held out on reading this one, too. I don't know why. I fell HARD, and the romance was just... whoa. *fans self*

    It's definitely high fantasy, but it's very much a character-driven one... and... oh man. Now I'm dying to hear what you'd make of it :O

    I AM! How are yooooou?

    I had a VERY intense personal connection with this one--I have to admit that.

    "I loved the imagery in this – especially the contrast between Alina’s army life and then the obscene wealth of the court, and the way that Bardugo makes all these characters that I thought were going to be significant/insignificant/good/bad the exact opposite."

    THIS. And Alex. Wow. I love your insight. Amazing ♥

  11. Thank you, Mel! I can't wait to see your review, and I am SO EXCITED your loved it, too! Seriously. The Darkling. Riiiiiiight? :O

  12. Beautiful review Sarah!!!!!!! I love everything you wrote in this review! especially you ending contemplating what a perfect book really is. I love how eloquently you shared this books story and why you adore this book! Darkling is definitely an amazing (and delightfully scary) character.

  13. And so a month of cold, shivering night (to rival any pissy winter Westeros could whine about), was suddenly obliterated when the Sun Summoner Sarah posted a new review <3

    I was 100% satisified with your photo review of this, but your wordsy reviews will forever trump any amount of snotty tissues.

    THIS: "It’s rare a find a character gets so deep under my skin I’m still feeling him hours and days later itching like phantom limbs."

    And THIS: “Perfect”, to me, is the book which captures my imagination, and something deeper, more profound—the kind of book I would read as a child and search deep inside myself afterwards, looking for hidden powers, and perhaps still do in adulthood.

    And: Leigh's at LeakyCon this year. Every year I want to go that tiny bit extra *sob*

  14. Sarah, you write so well. Seriously. I envy your voice and wish I could structure my words like you do. I hope some day you decide to write/publish a book.

    As for this novel? Completely agreed. I cannot wait to get my copy of Siege & Storm back so I can READ IT!

  15. *grabs your review* *twirls around with it* *hugs it close*



    but more importantly, Darkling.

    your words are beauuutiful as always! liked the bit with the phantom limbs, especially.

  17. Is it bad that I just REALLY like the term/idea/concept of phantom limbs? *grins*

  18. This was my favorite book of 2012!! It was incredibly imaginative and the world-building knocked my socks off! I had no idea it had different names of Australia/UK releases. Do they do that often?

    They don't do it often, especially this drastically, but it's not unheard of. I know Kathleen Peacock's Hemlock is Deadly Hemlock in AU, and then there's the whole Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone/Philosopher's Stone. Jellicoe Road is ON THE Jellicoe Road here, too.

    OH! The other BIG change I can think of is Laura Buzo: what's called Good Oil here is called Love and Other Perishable Items in the states :D


    How have I not read this?! Or even own it?!

    Looks like you'll be introducing me to my next favorite YA (again!) :)

  21. Beautiful review Sarah!!!!!!! I love everything you wrote in this review! this was my fav book of 2012. jelly you're readin siege and storm

  22. Good god, Sarah. Can I marry this review?

    HOW!! How do you always manage to convey my own feelings (my EXACT feelings!) so well? Rest assured, I loved this too, flaws or not, 'perfect' or not. Siege and Storm pretty much went the same way.

    Or maybe it's Leigh Bardugo that I need to marry?

    I love love LOVE this post!

  23. I don't believe there are "perfect" books either--just books that are perfect for YOU. :) I see you found some words to go along with the original speechless jpg review! Hee hee.

    I waited so long to read this too, in part because some friends loved it whilst others really disliked it. (Why, oh why...) I ended up staying up until 2 am to finish it, though, it was such a wonderful read.

    And DARKLING. We'd better get more of him in S&S.

  24. Aw, Mary, thank you! Seriously, I don't regret putting off reading it for that reason alone :D

    I'm reading the second now! OMG OMG OMG. ALINA. MAL. D A R K L I N G.

    I has feels :O

  25. YES! I do get what you mean... but I think that, even though the countries themselves are similar, culturally, geographically the world is very different. But still. Seriously. I kept called 'Ravka' 'Rivka' because I was confused!

    "Mostly I’ve been making myself get through some other books before getting sucked into this series. I just know I’m going to love it."

    THIS! It was totally one of those books I held off on. Kind of like saving it as a treat ^__^

  26. YES! Seriously, the name changes are CONFUSING. Especially when I start hearing book #2 names thrown around and get seriously confused >__<

    I really hope you love it, Emma! It's AMAZING!

  27. RACH! Thank you, darling! Seriously, this book was amazing, and The Darkling? YES YES YES. Leigh managed this amazing balance between scary/compelling/sexy... just wow :O

  28. BROOOOOOODIIIIIIE! You comment kind of made me squee/cry/mental squish-hug you x 2305862396 ♥

    Ha! I, personally, was a big fan of my photo review, too, but THANK YOU :D

    Seriously. S&B = A M A Z I N G.

    And WHAAAA? LEAKY CON? BUT... *cries*
    Why can't we live in America? You know... when it suits us?

  29. Eep! Kara, thank you so much ♥

    Um, seriously, thank you. My jaw's sitting on the desk right now :O

    I would *LOVE* to write a book, but I'm not so great with the whole 'ideas' thing :P

    Seriously, Siege and Storm ♥♥♥
    (pssst, did you know it was on NetGalley?)
    I can't wait to see what you think of it!

  30. Oooh, Tara, I think you'll like this one!
    And OMG, *ME* introducing *YOU* to your new fave?
    You are single-handedly responsible for me reading Graceling and Fire (FAVORITES! FAVORITES!) not to mention Night Huntress, and, as a result, my #1 favorite book crush of all time (BONES! BONES! BONES!)

    I think you're still winning on that front :P

  31. I now pronounce you, Sam, goddess of review-writing, internet-awesomness, and all-round-amazing, and this review, which pales in comparison, Woman and... umm... spouse-thing?


    Seriously, Leigh's brain, right? S&B was AMAZING.
    And the Darkling.

    THE D A R K L I N G :O


  32. EXACTLY! And, well, yeah. I had to gush about it, once I got over the tears :P

    Seriously, those books you stay up all night for are ♥

    I waited so long to read it, too! I think that, in my case, I just assumed I would love it so... it wasn't as exciting, almost? Does that make *any* sense? SMH >__<

  33. I love this book so much and should definitely reread it in prep for Siege and Storm. I hate waiting!

  34. I enjoyed this a lot too, despite the many, many flaws. And I agree, it was hard to get The Darkling out of my head!

  35. :))))

    I LOVE hearing that I introduced you to books you loved! (I am a HUGE Night Huntress pusher lol!)

  36. I know exactly what you mean about the whole ideas thing. That's the same thing with me and why I decided to copy edit instead. That said, someday I am still hoping for an idea that must be written.

    I have a copy of Siege and Storm already. I sent it off to Lyn and I am just waiting for it in the mail so I can read it!

  37. I liked this one too. I must get onto book 2 ASAP!! Find out what the lads are up to:D


    Darkling or Mal...Darkling or Mal.....EEeeeeEeeeeee

  38. OMG. A re-read would be AWESOME. I kind of miss feeling like I'm 'allowed' to do that :D

  39. In the last few days I've read quite a few FANTASTIC reviews for this book, a book which I hadn't really looked into much until now, so I'm really excited to read it because it sounds so brilliant and the characters sound really intriguing and it just sounds amazing. Excellent review, Sarah! I hope I love it as much as you!

  40. Awesome review, Sarah! And great to see you back! :) I am still yet to read this. It sounds amazing, and yet there is something that holds me back. I don't know what, though. Still, I must read it, obviously! Thanks for the fantastic review! :)

  41. Oh, Sarah! I just read this one myself and I wholeheartedly concur!! Honestly, I thought you did a fantastic job getting your feelings across in this review - well done! I do agree that perfect is subjective and a story that can capture your imagination so perfectly must be the ideal story for you. I loved reading your thoughts on the Darkling - GAH, SO enigmatic and brilliant! I absolutely CANNOT wait for the sequel.

  42. I really need to get my hands on this book! Everyone is raving about it! :)

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