The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: 17th May 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic
Rating: 5/5 stars
Source: Received from the publisher for review
"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?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance."
I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive to read this book simply because I literally have a love/hate relationship with the fantasy genre. I tend to either absolutely love a fantasy novel or loath it with no middle ground so I’m always anxious when starting a new fantasy book to see which category it falls under. I’d heard so much hype for this book in the US (US title Smoke and Bone) that I had high hopes for The Gathering Dark and I’m happy to say the hype is totally justified!
The reason I’m so picky with my fantasy is that I like to lose myself in a fantasy world from the start and so the book needs to immerse me in its culture. If the book doesn’t really go into the politics, names, and descriptions and I have to keep jarring myself out of the story to flick through and look it up then I give up on a book pretty quickly. For me it takes a talented storyteller indeed who can comfortably get me settled into their world and gives me enough information and description so that I can imagine the world with ease and can completely lose myself in their world without getting confused and having to constantly suss out the who’s who and what’s what in order to enjoy the book. I like to get sucked into a fantasy land smoothly and with effortlessness and Leigh Bardugo does that with the Kingdom of Ravka seamlessly.
Alina’s world is rich with detail and so well imagined. I loved the idea of having a magical elite in the Grisha with magicians who each have a speciality be it death, healing, fire, air, fabrics amongst numerous other things. I loved learning about the Grisha and their place in society. This book is a literal battle between light and dark as Alina discovers a power like no other Grisha that may be the key to saving Ravka from The Shadow Fold and restore the Kingdom to its former glory.
Alina is the perfect heroine she herself admits to being average in every way but as she learns about her new power she goes from being a normal girl to Ravka’s saviour and as the book goes on she makes a lot of tough calls and brave decisions and I totally respected her as our heroine.
My favourite kind of romance is when childhood friends grow into something more so Alina and Mals relationship was always going to be a winner for me. I fell for Mal pretty much from the start and only grew to love him more as the book continued. He’s charming, funny, and hugely likeable and his relationship with Alina was wonderful to read and watch develop.
The Darkling has to be the best villain I’ve come across in a long time you never quite know whether to trust him or not. He’s dangerous, seductive, and persuasive and I couldn’t help but be drawn to him along with Alina. I love when the bad guy has a good backstory and isn’t just bad for the sake of it but because he truly believes that what he’s doing is the right thing to do. The Darkling was powerful, charismatic, and fearsome and was everything I could hope for in a good villain.
I picked up this book purposefully because I was looking for a nice chunky book that could last me a while. Despite being a big book I read this in one night a rarity for me especially with a book of this size. I literally could not put it down and refused to part with it until I was finished in the early hours of the morning. The Gathering Dark held me captivated from start to finish and has to be my favourite book of 2012 so far. Even if fantasy’s not usually your thing I’d fully recommend giving this book a go. If you like books that transport you to richly imagined fantastical places, that introduces you to vibrant and warm characters, that has a gorgeous romance, and best of all an epic battle between good and evil then look no further. I loved every second spent with this book and thoroughly recommend it.
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