Published by Indigo on 19th June 2014
Genre: YA, Fantasy
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The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. 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 Alina 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 - but claiming it could cost Alina the very future she is fighting for.Thrilling and beautifully written, a stunning conclusion to the trilogy in my opinion and far better than the first two books. I know that not many people will agree with me, but damn, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Although I liked the first two books okay, I wasn't head over heels in love or anything – until this book happened to me. I wasn't expecting to be blown away because the first two hadn't impressed me hugely, but blown away I was.
I think this is because this book actually was everything that I'd wanted out of this series but hadn't really yet got. I wanted a better romance, better female characters and friendships, less Darkling, and also a queer character or two. AND I GOT ALL OF THOSE THINGS. Plus, I got more of Nikolai being awesome, so I'm happy.
Alina in this book gathers the few allies she has left and tries to find the firebird, the third amplifier, but realises that there's a lot more to it than she'd expected.
If you read my review of Siege and Storm, you'll know I was hoping that Tamar was queer. And guess what? SHE TOTALLY IS. VICTORY. This is not a spoiler because I don't think anyone's sexuality should really be a spoiler, plus it was dealt with in a really casual way in the book; queerness doesn't really seem like a remarkable thing in the world of Ravka at all, and I really appreciated that.
Also if you read my previous reviews for this trilogy you will know I don't care about the Darkling. I still don't. I have to say, if you love the Darkling you might not love this book. There's actually an unexpected lack of him in this book. He's there, but he's much less there than you might expect. A relief for me, but probably not wonderful for his fans.
So: MAL AND ALINA. Honestly, I don't know how because their romance was just endlessly frustrating in the previous book and I pretty much completely lost interest in Mal, but I thought that this book excelled in really bringing their relationship back to life and showing me the spark in it, the light and the sweetness and the way they really do truly care for each other and the lengths they'll go for each other, and I was so completely into it. I was honestly smitten. They were finally honest to each other and it was breathtaking to read about. I loved all the scenes between the two of them; some of them almost made me cry. There was never any doubt to me at any point in the series who Alina would end up with, but I hadn't really been completely happy about that until this book.
This book fixed a HUGE problem I had with the other two books, which was that pretty much every other female character apart from Alina seemed to be portrayed as shallow and annoying, and that Alina had a distinct lack of female friends. But this problem is gone. I loved the interactions she had with various female characters, I loved the way their friendships added warmth and humour to the story. Remember Zoya, the girl who was just pretty much the Mean Girl of the first book and who just made me roll my eyes continuously because I was just sick of all these high school antics in a high fantasy book? SHE TURNED AWESOME. She was so funny. Also, Genya kicked ass.
I personally really enjoyed the plot and thought this book was well-paced and gripping. This was definitely helped by how much less Darkling there was than I'd expected, and also by how much I was utterly invested in Mal and Alina's romance. There were some interesting twists, and I found the ending surprising and satisfying, and very meaningful. Bardugo's writing was so pretty in this book too, I think noticeably more so in this book compared to the previous two. Seriously, all those scenes between Mal and Alina. My heart.
All in all, I have few complaints about this third book. A stellar end to a series that got off to a bit of a rocky start for me. I'm looking forward to whatever Bardugo will be writing next!