I am a big fan of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows series its one of my favorite young adults from the recent years. I was very eager to finally start this series, based on the fact that I loved her later works. Sadly this one didn't invoke the same feelings as I had when I read Six of Crows. To be fair this is one of her earlier works, so I can give it some slack in that regard. However had I read this first I do not know if I would have read her other works. The writing in this book is not so much the problem, the author can tell a story there's no doubt about that. But my main gripe with it was that I felt that the Darkling was made the villain for the sake of being the villain. It felt very light is good, dark is bad kind of vibe and that felt very tropeish to me. Already he was seen as someone to be feared, so people feared him. I was hoping that while he could do terrible things, it wasn't necessarily because he was evil down to his core.
The building chemistry between him and Alina really had me looking forward to that being the angle. When its revealed suddenly that he is the one, that created the Fold in the first place. Outside of wanting my ship to happen, it just felt very forced and just kind of dropped into the lap of the reader half way through the first book. If something was like this revealed later, it might have had a bigger impact on me. But with it being right in the middle of the first book it created this bland feeling. I wasn't surprised or shocked, mostly just disappointed because it didn't have an impact on me. Even the way its revealed was just sort of made no sense to me. Baghra is revealed to be the Darkling's mother, and she tells Alina of his true identity. Its never shown until later, that Baghra was right. It just bugged me that the protagonist is able to be convinced by someone, without witnessing the truth until much later. Now onto the romantic pairing I was obviously not a fan of this ship. But that's because I loathe childhood friend tropes, its overdone and when one is involved nearly every time you already know who the protagonist is going to get with.
It was clear the two had a connection, and the feelings were one sided for a while. That aside it felt like the ship was being made to fit, where it didn't make a whole lot of sense from Mal's side. He only came to the realization after the fact, that Alina was taken into the Little Palace that he had feelings for her. Before that he didn't seem that romantically interested in her, considering its stated numerous times that he was known to go out and be with other women. Which that is not something that bugs me, but its clear he didn't feel on the same level for Alina as to what she did for him. It felt more like a brother sister relationship, perhaps akin to a twin bond. Clearly the romance factor regardless of everything else that is going on is more pushed to the front, unlike Six of Crows. My gripes aside I do love the Grishaverse its ripe with interesting lore, and I love all the different powers that Grishas have. Its a unique and very vivid world.
I just wished I could have felt that sense of awe in this book that I got from Six of Crows. To be fair because it did not have the same feel, as her later works it is likely that I am judging it more firmly. Its not a bad book but the reasons I stated are why I did not enjoy the first book. I intend to finish the other two books in the series and I do look forward to seeing how the series grows. Because it does deserve a chance, but if the theme continues on its likely my stance will not change much.
I did like this book though thought the flow wasn't great in a lot of places. Way too many things felt over explained too. And the action scenes were kind of blah. I did love how Bardugo brought in the Greek mythology in her story though (we revisit Helen of Troy) and I loved the whole idea behind it.
"Wonder Woman: Warbringer" is a nice little set up of showing Wonder Woman as a teenager who is doing what she can to prove herself to her fellow Amazons. Due to her mother Queen Hippolyta bringing Diana to life through clay, Diana is seen as outside the Amazons by many on Themyscira. While Diana prepares to run a race, she sees a young woman (Alia Keralis) in the ocean about to drown, deciding to save her, Diana sets things in motions that could see the end of Themyscira and the World of Men. When Diana goes to visit the Oracle and is told that Alia is a Warbringer (a direct descendant of Helen of Troy) and the best thing she can do is to let Alia die, she decides to do what it takes to keep Alia safe even if it means traveling to Alia's world.
I really liked Diana in this one. Bardugo shows that she (Diana) is smart and capable. Diana may not know what the World of Men is like, but she catches on quickly and promises to be there for Alia and Alia's friends and her brother no matter what. I do wish that we had time to delve into Diana bit more. We know that she feels separate from the other Amazons and that she wants to be battle-borne like them, but it definitely feels like she has no one she can really trust or talk to until she meets Alia.
I love that Alia and Jason (her brother) are portrayed as black. I initially thought due to the last names that Alia and Jason would just be seen as Greek. Alia and Jason's friends Nim and Theo are also POC as well which was great to see. Nim and Theo are loyal to the end and there are hints of romance between Alia and Theo that we really don't get into since most of the book is the five of them running from attackers.
I wish that all had been developed a bit more too. Diana is the best developed, but Alia, Jason, Theo and Nim felt a bit thin to me after a while. Probably because they keep running and are trying to figure out to keep the world exploding into war.
The writing was okay. We are able to get into Diana's head a bit more. Maybe this would have worked better as a first person via Diana instead of third person via everyone. I think the book just got too jumbled after a while. The flow was not that great though. It felt like the book kept just randomly ending after a while. Also reading about people running for their lives and occasionally fighting is boring. Bardugo tries to set up a romance between Diana and Jason and it didn't work at all. I hard shrugged that thing and wasn't feeling it. Same issue with Alia and Theo. I feel like it's a YA requirement to have love triangles or whatever going on in YA books.
I also didn't like the twist/reveal since it made zero sense and just felt like it got put in there to show even more conflict.
The setting of the book moves from Themyscira, to New York, and to Greece. I didn't really get a good sense of locations beyond Themyscira though. I think that Bardugo could have made New York and Greece come alive a bit more.
The ending sets things up to show that Diana is eventually going to be Wonder Woman. She's totally clueless though and I thought the whole thing made zero sense since she should know what she looks like.
I have finally finished! The sequel to Six of Crows and the finale of this duology ends to me with a satisfying conclusion. It has been a wild journey for me, a long one (my fault, due to reading slump and work) and in the end, it's almost perfect.
Continued from where it was left off, Kaz Brekker and his crew returns to Ketterdam as wanted fugitives. After being double crossed by Jan Van Eck, the crew needs to hide their most wanted prize, if only they won't be hunted by every one who wants that prize and killing the crew. But Kaz has a plan that will change the game of odds to his favor and the only way to do this, is that his crew able to survive to challenge what's ahead of them.
I do love the finale and how it ended. Its not really great but its good enough that it ends as its meant to be. I love the characters, its development and the relationship between one another. The scheming and the planning, the plot and the twist is just good enough to keep me reading. If not for the slump, I would have finished this sooner. There is so much to explore on this book that I want to talk about but this is definitely worth re-reading... one day. 4.5 out of 5 stars.