Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for. Quoted from Goodreads
Okay, enough with the whole read this series propaganda. To be honest, when I started this book, I wasn't sure I liked it all that much. The beginning is slow and a bit uncomfortable. Alina's trapped by the Apparat, and while I love multiple villains, especially those who aren't completely evil but shaded with gray, I didn't much care for her time in the caves. Alina feels horrible, and it sort of put me off the book---just a smidgen. But if you push past the first few chapters, we get back to the adventure of the previous books.
This book is full of some great adventures, surprising twists, and fun reveals. Characters die. We get betrayal. We even get some well deserved justice for a minor character I hated but sort of forgot between this book and the last. Alina and Mal grow up a lot, and their relationship really reflects this instead of annoying me like it did in the second book.
As for the Darkling and Nikolai (because everyone knows they are at least half the reason anyone reads these books), they were absolutely perfect. I do wish they both had a little more page time, but I loved them every time we see them. The Darkling is delightful because he's such a sympathetic bad guy. You constantly want him to be redeemed. As for Nikolai, what can I say? He's amazing. I love his dedication to his country, Alina, and even the brief scene with his parents.
As far as relationships go, I'm happy with who Alina got with. Of the three guys (yes, there are still three different men vying for Alina's affection) he wasn't my favorite, but he was probably the most perfect for her. I won't say any more because of spoilers, but even if she didn't choose the guy I personally liked the best, I still like her choice.
The ending is bitter sweet, and I have really mixed feelings about it. Part of me wanted the book to go another way, but part of me liked the way things ended up. Part of me liked all the sacrifice (what can I say? I'm a sucker for noble sacrifices) but part of me thought there should have been more. Still, I really appreciate the story the author told.
All in all, if you're looking for a new fantasy series (maybe one with a Russian feel) you need to check this out. I'm giving it a fantastic 4 stars, and I can't wait to see what the Leigh Bardugo writes next.