The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo

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The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Beguiling fantasy romance with a great love triangle which has got me looking forward to the next in the trilogy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Indigo
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781780621104

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Republished in June 2013 as Shadow and Bone: The Grisha Trilogy Book 1

The country of Ravka has been at war for many years. It has also been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a mysterious black fog filled with the volcra, monsters who feast on human flesh, created by an evil Darkling many centuries ago. All seems lost for this once-great country - until orphan Alina crosses the fold, and manages to fight off the volcra by releasing a power she never knew she had. Taken to the royal court to learn how to use her power, will she be Ravka's saviour? And while the current Darkling needs her to help him to repent for his predecessor's crimes, and she feels attracted to him - why can't she ever forget her childhood friend Mal?

This was a beguiling fantasy with some superb world-building here and a trio of interesting characters who actually provided a love triangle which didn't set my teeth on edge for once. Alina, who starts off as a plain and ordinary girl with no confidence herself, develops into a great heroine, while the Darkling and the tracker Mal are intriguing characters – even if Mal does spend a large amount of the book ‘off-stage’, so to speak. The romance between Alina and the two men is intense and the stakes – the fate of a country, or perhaps even the entire world, are suitably high. It’s also got some great twists in the tale, and it keeps you guessing until the very end as to how things will turn out. On the other hand, I can’t help thinking the ending wasn’t as epic as I was expecting it to be given the build-up, and the supporting cast is slightly less well-fleshed out than the main trio. Having said that, I really liked Genya, the girl who helps Alina to look beautiful.

All in all, this isn’t quite amongst the top fantasy novels out there – but it is well worth checking out and I’m definitely looking forward to the next in this trilogy. (I’m not quite sure where Leigh Bardugo will go from here, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy finding out!)

My favourite fantasy of recent years is the superb Moorehawke trilogy, starting with The Poison Throne: Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan.

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