Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
I first read the blurb for this book some time ago and request a copy and like most books I really want to read they end up as part of the mountain of books I have and I have to wish for a long snowed in month to read them all. However another blogger (Casey from Dark Readers) a month or two later insisted I read it; not just read it in fact but read as soon as physically possible. Every time we spoke she brought it up so I knew it had to be worth grabbing with a recommendation like that from a fellow blogger.
The Gathering Dark is a leap into a dark world that from the outside isn’t as horrible as one would think but secrets and power have divided this world and the Shadow Fold the splits the lands with it’s terrifying Volcra beasts that eat people alive is a threat that needs to disappear but no one has that power. Some in the world of The Gathering Dark are born with powers and abilities and they are trained and then protect the lands in the name of the King. They are known as Grisha and live in wealth and splendour. Alina is torn from her life as a solider when it is revealed she has a major Grisha talent that was missed as a child and we follow her journey to train and hone her talent in the hopes of using it to destroy the Shadow Fold completely. However those around her may not be honest and may use her to get their own personal goals met.
Completely feel in love with the world of Grisha and the way Leigh Bardugo writes because she doesn’t force information on her readers but simply presents it to them and lets you digest it slowly. Like Alina; if I was thrown in at the deep end of Grisha society and told EVERYTHING at once I’d be lost but be get chucks as the story grows which is perfect. Personally the real treats where the moments of simple interactions with people in her life and her past as Alina takes shape and becomes her true self. She shy and holds back so much at the start of the book and through her experiences and the bits of honesty and humanity she see’s in others she gradually unfurls in her own skin. My favourite example is when she’s Baghra in training and she pushes Alina to keep trying harder and harder. She’s training her body but also her mind without Alina realising.
A stunning way to start a trilogy and it left me with baited breathe for the next in the series. If you’re a fan of Maria V. Synder or Kristin Cashore then The Gathering Dark is a little bit of heaven just for you. A dash of fantasy and mixed up with romance and that luxury feel you’d get from a historical fiction tale with hints of Russian influences in the landscape and history of Ravka. The Gathering Dark is a glorious read that I couldn’t let go of for days after finishing. The characters kept on surprising me right up until the very last page and now I hate that I have to wait for the sequel. How will I cope waiting? I’ll probably read The Gathering Dark again.