Book Reviews: The Grisha Trilogy and The Princess Diaries

Hey everyone! Recently I’ve been a lot more active on Goodreads and been reading a lot more, too. It astounds me every time I see someone so organized with their reading: setting themselves a monthly TBR, having read and reviewed a classic every month, their shelves so organized! Inspired, I put together an extra post (which will pop into your inboxes every once in a while,) and it will have some book reviews!

With the last Summer Diaries scheduled for the Sunday after the next, my summer will be done, just as quickly as it came! It seems only yesterday I was writing the first post.

Books I read and reviewed (click to see the review):

The Grisha Trilogy
The Princess Diaries

The once-glorious city of Ravka is torn apart by the looming Shadow Fold, filled to the brim with volcra demons. Alina Starkov, once a nobody, finds her power: she can summon light. Now a Grisha with powers, she is dragged away from everything she ever knew to the Darkling’s home and the palace.

She is housed with more Grisha who wields power like she does, and is wrenched apart from her best friend and lifelong companion Mal. She is taught how to use her powers, and even befriends some Grisha… but are they truly her allies?

To multiply her power, the Darkling seeks the three famed amplifiers: a stag, a sea-whip and a firebird. Once used on Alina, it forges a permanent bond between them. Will Alina be able to choose between power and her country… and will she find her heart’s true calling?

This is the briefest, most without context synopsis I can give of the series without spoiling too much. The world-building will take time to understand but there are many manuals and guides online; even on the Shadow and Bone website. Shadow and Bone is the debut novel into the fictional world of the Grisha, and is also succeeded by two more series set in the same world.

This is an extremely enjoyable series to read. I won’t deny it that; there are many plot twists, it shall keep you hooked on for the most part and it has great characters with great backstory. But, unfortunately, there are things wrong with this series and there are cliché tropes and love triangles with white straight men and women. Even then, Bardugo managed to morph it into something different and novel in a refreshing fantasy world.

Setting

What intrigued me most was the world-building. As I mentioned before, it was hard to understand it in the first book. It helped me also understand why another common trope in literature is a girl/boy introduced to a world they knew of all their lives; it is hard to explain world-building clearly otherwise.

I still think Leigh Bardugo did a pretty good job of introducing the world and the magic system, though it took me the whole trilogy to be absolutely clear as to how it went about. The Grisha system, most prominent in that accusation. I found myself turning back to the reference every single time one of the Heartrenders, or Corporalki were mentioned and that’s how I remember what they are now.

I would have liked to know which time period this story was set in, or if it was at all. I found the fact that it was set in a world which had no mention of ‘earth’ whatsoever interesting, but I wanted to know if or how the laws of physics worked, and more of the magic system. In short, the worldbuilding intrigued me, but I was not completely satisfied. I’m currently reading Six of Crows (which is set in the same world) so it should be beneficial.

Character Development: Alina

Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay. I tilted my head back. The stars looked like they were close together when really they were millions of miles apart. In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.

—Ruin and Rising

In matters of character, Alina started out very plain in Shadow and Bone. I’m only referring to Shadow and Bone (not the remaining two books, for she did go through quite a bit of character development in those books). She cane across to me as someone who was yet to find her purpose and that’s when I knew she would be a special snowflake.

And I was right. She finds her power and is taken to the Darkling. This is the first sign of any character development. How she takes being put into a new place, what she does to ‘fit in’ and how the other conceive her. I think she was still piing for Mal. All through her time at the palace.

Since I don’t want to spoil it much, we’ll fast-forward to Siege and Storm where we actually begin to see some development. We see how Alina reacts to power, and she does take to it well, she sought more power, but there was a still-sane part of her conscience asking her what she had really become. This is where she should have been in Shadow and Bone, in my opinion.

This is the early stage of conflict with oneself. She has two opinions; two paths she could go down. Her decisions could change the lives of many. Then comes the question of betrayal: was it or was it not done well? In my opinion it was. She could (after her first incident with betrayal) not trust anyone as openly as she did.

That summarises what I thought was her development in Siege and Storm. Ruin and Rising had a terrible ending in my opinion. I had fantasized so much about how Alina would be queen, and how she’d be able to control her power so well, but doing what Bardugo did ended the story in a way I thought was not satisfying.

The Darkling: themes portrayed

This was his soul made flesh, the truth of him laid bare in the blazing sun, shorn of mystery and shadow. This was the truth behind the handsome face and the miraculous powers, the truth that was the dead and empty space between the stars, a wasteland peopled by frightened monsters.

—Shadow and Bone

The Darkling and his relationship with Alina portrayed a few underlying themes in this series. Darklina is not a thing and I refuse to believe anyone who says it is. Sure, it could be something of a guilty pleasure, but when you look at it seriously, I love how Leigh Bardugo shows how the Darkling was abusive and how their relationship was not a good one; how she realises that and moves on is the best part of it.

I think I read somewhere how she herself idolised these men at the point in her life when she wrote Shadow and Bone and doing this, showing how the Darkling wasn’t a right choice for Alina and why it was so was one of the better parts of this novel.

I loved the Darkling as a villain. He wasn’t the villain whom you’d feel sorry for (like Count Olaf, or even Queen Levana at some point of time) but he was the cruel and vile type. I hated him, but that is what made him such a great villain. In the end he did seem to care a little bit for his now-dead mother, but I never think he really did.

Showing Alina her ‘mother’ and her orphanage destroyed was just so unequivocally cruel. I mean, just how cruel can a villain get? Why would she give a man like this a second thought? I suppose I sort of shipped Darklina in the TV show, but they did something different and portrayed him as a more breakable person there. It was all Ben Barnes, but that is aside the point.

Mal: I’m confused.

I don’t think very highly of Mal. He’s your regular horny teenager who refuses to talk it out with the protagonist hence finding himself in a cycle of miscommunication, but sometimes I think that there’s something more to him.

Of course, by the end of Ruin and Rising I was a hard-core Malina stan (who could not be after that epilogue??) but all through Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm I was confused. He seemed a little self-centred and kept doubting his purpose; I even thought him to be a little… insecure at times?

I reckon when I’m overdue for a re-read I shall make up my mind as to whether I like Mal as a character. There are so many people who hate him to the core, but it isn’t his fault! When Alina flinched at his attempt to make out, his reaction was actually completely normal now that I think of it. But instead of running away and keeping away from her, he could have just stayed and talked.

That’s the most annoying thing in all of these YA fantasies. The whole reason all of this angst is there is because no one just talks. They just assume too much. (Also if I’m being really honest, I shipped Alina with Nikolai the most and I still think she ought to have married him, but now with him being some demon with wings thing, I don’t know how he’ll turn out. He’s still part-demon, so I guess I’ve got to read King of Scars soon.)

So that is all I can say without spoiling much for you, but this trilogy is worth a read. I think the ending did disappoint, but the journey was the more prominent part. I’d rate this four stars for the reasons mentioned above, but all in all this was a wholesome read set in a new fantasy world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot - Bookworm Hanoi
Synopsis off of Goodreads

‘You’re not Mia Thermopolis any more, honey,’ Dad said. I raised my head. ‘I’m not?’ I said, blinking. ‘Then who am I?’ He went, kind of sadly, ‘You’re Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Princess of Genovia.’

A PRINCESS??
ME???

Yeah, right.

One minute Mia’s totally normal. Next minute she’s heir to the throne of Genovia.

Well, her dad can lecture her until he’s royal-blue in the face, but no way is Mia going to behave like some posh princess. And they think she’s moving to Genovia? Er, hello?

Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there’s nothing worse than being a five-foot-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.

Is she ever in for a surprise.

First mom announces that she’s dating Mia’s Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn’t have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a sweet contemporary romance. If I said I thought this was a little over-the-top with the informality, I’d be lying. The Princess Diaries is a YA contemporary novel chronicling the life of Mia Thermopolis who finds out that she’s the heir to the throne of a small country: Genovia.

Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.

I think after reading more fantasies recently, this was extremely refreshing! (Note to self: switch genres more.) It’s the journaling style and the intimate first-person that hooked me onto this book. Oftentimes in YA, first-person means simply seeing through the person’s eyes but not too much into their feelings. This was very different and I really did like it.

I’d watched the movie before reading this, and to be honest they Percy Jackson-ed it into something good for a change. It isn’t entirely like the books, just pinching a few ideas, but on the whole, it was good.

Mia’s the regular not-like-other-girls protagonist who’s also ‘not pretty’. But for some reason, I didn’t find myself caring that some of this was cliché because it was just so fun! I loved how she doesn’t see that someone likes her, and how she doesn’t see that people are using her.

Grandmere was hilarious. Scratch that last. This whole book was hilarious. I love how Mia went from hating writing in her journal to loving it, and I love how she never gets the little goals she scribbles down done. Also, I love how she went from idolising that absolute powderpuff Josh Richter to hating him.

Needless to say, the fact that he actually spoke to me at all practically caused me to pass out. And then the fact that he was actually saying something that sounded like it might be a prelude to asking me out – well, I nearly threw up. I mean it. I felt really sick, but in a good way.

Then, there’s Michael. He’s the Simon to Mia’s Clary, but imagine an AU where she ends up with him instead of Jace. I, having watched the movie first, was positively enraged at her obliviousness and her lack of vocabulary to know what libidinous meant. They feed her answers on a silver platter and yet she doesn’t take it. I get that that’s supposed to add to the feasibility of her character (which was done well,) but wake up and coffee!

Lilly was the most fleshed-out character here. I thought she did seem a little detestable, but her jealousy was a little funny at times. I don’t know what Lilly was supposed to signify here—but the childhood best-friend plot device was so sweet. I need to keep a check on how many times I use that because everything about this is adorable.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

So that is what I read this week! I think I am going to continue with The Princess Diaries series since we have the first four books and I loved this one. I’m also currently reading Six of Crows, so if everything goes well, you can expect a gush review of that and of the next few Princess Diaries books! Thanks for reading ♥

Have you read any of these books? Do you have similar opinions, or ones that differ? Do you like Mal or not? What have you read recently? Tell me in the comments!

Sending you a little bit of sunshine,
Maya

30 thoughts on “Book Reviews: The Grisha Trilogy and The Princess Diaries

  1. great post!!!! i LOVE the princess diaries and i’m so happy you did tooo!!!! these reviews were so fun to read 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I watched the Shadow and Bone TV show without reading the books and it was so good. I shipped Darklina until I found out what he is. Now I’m a hardcore Malina shipper🤩
    From what you described, the books seem interesting too. I guess i should read them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yass I too can’t understand all the Darklina shippers – seriously, the Darkling straight up used alina for his own goals!! (Now I’m laughing at how autocorrect turned the darkling into duckling lmao) I’m a Malina shipper too, and that last epilogue is all😍😍 and i think Mal is a very realistic characters because, let’s face it, people will be complaining Mal is *too perfect* if all those flaws were removed. People are idiots and make mistakes and only think of their own opinions sometimes and also we saw all this thru alina’s eyes so we have no idea how Mal actually felt like. (Although he did get a little too infuriating sometimes) Also yes, the darkling is a very effective villain given how much I hated him😅

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this comment! It made my day ❤ I know! I actually liked the message she portrayed through Darklina. (lol that happened xD)

      Yes, Mal was actually a really believable character and I have no idea why people hate him so much! He just wouldn't talk at all for some reason and kept assuming things!

      Yes, I REALLY hated him but TV show him was a little bit better! Thank you so much for reading!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Princess Diaries are so great — I’m especially a fan of where they start to incorporate the existence of the movie (and critique it!). I’m also a big fan of Cabot’s All American Girl, although it might have dated a bit by now.

    Liked by 1 person

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