I received this book for free from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Written by Leigh Bardugo
Published June, 2012 by Indigo
Provided by: Hachette Australia
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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?
It’s hard to put into words just how enthralled by The Gathering Dark I was. Let’s just say that I haven’t been able to read a book of this size in one sitting for over six months, and that was when I was floored by Veronica Rossi’s debut in January. Leigh Bardugo astounds me with her craft for storytelling! I am so very glad I stumbled into the world of the Grisha!
The story starts innocently; a boy and a girl are introduced to the reader from a distance. From the first page I simply KNEW that Leigh Bardugo had a knack for writing and painting a vivid world. I prepared myself for a long night of reading. I am so glad that I wasn’t wrong.
It’s been a while since I was swept away so completely by a book like this. It was exactly what I needed; a strong, fantasy-fuelled escape with dystopian elements and a twinge of something extra. That ‘something extra’ came in the form of the Russian elements and Leigh Bardugo’s unique way of mixing it all up!
Alina’s story was so well-rounded and is a great first step into what promises to be an exciting series. We begin with a short glimpse into her life as a child, then we progress to her drab and anonymous life as a cartographer in the military. It’s here, with Alina, Mal and the First Army, that we witness the terrifying void of shadow known as ‘the Unsea’. This experience will shape Alina and the rest of the story – and certainly left me with goosebumps as I tried to forget about the volca (awful shadow-wraith creatures who we learn more about later on).
After Alina’s experience at the Unsea, we’re whisked away into a completely new setting, and that is life at the Little Palace and the world of the Grisha. Leigh Bardugo managed to weave such a colourful and interesting culture here. I was blown away by the imagery of the Grand Palace and Little Palace, and found myself loving Alina’s time there as well as the new host of characters we were able to meet. We also see Alina’s relationship with The Darkling (sah-woon!) progress as she settles into her newfound life.
There are many facets to this story and I found myself really enjoying Alina’s character and her narrative. Our setting changes again – there’s never a dull moment – and in this ‘third quarter’ of the book, I was reminded of Maria V. Snyder’s Touch of Power, which I absolutely adored. We learn more about Ravka and its people, too, which is always a good thing.
There’s also a shocking finale. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, things turn around again! If I had wanted to put the book down at any point during the night, I would have been unable to!
There aren’t many ‘series’ today that really require a second installment, but this isn’t one of them. Leigh Bardugo has earned herself a new fan and reader here, and I can’t wait for the sequel which is sure to be stunning!
Recommended to: If you’re pining for a new read that will keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, give this debut by Leigh Bardugo a try. She manages to nail each and every element she employs within The Gathering Dark, and the intricate relationships between Alina, Mal and The Darkling will leave you thinking long after you close the final pages. Fans of Maria V. Snyder will be pleased.