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Thoughts on Two Trilogies I Loved Reading

This set of mini-reviews is a little different that others — I’m going to talk about two recently-completed trilogies that I’ve enjoyed since the first books came out. The first is a YA fantasy series where the magical elite, the Grisha, manipulate matter down to the very atom to summon and mold the basic elements in the world. The second is a genre mish-mash that combines a dystopia with a crime procedural to explore big questions about what it means to be human.

I’ve tried to avoid spoilers as best I can, but there may be some hints of developments in the first and second books of each series that I needed to include in order to talk about what I love in each of these trilogies.

The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising

grisha trilogy

At the beginning of Shadow and Bone, Alina Starkov is a cartographer in the First Army of Ravka, a fictional, Imperial Russian-esque country where magic is possible. Ravka is split down the middle by The Fold, a place of magical darkness that few can safely cross. It soon becomes clear that Alina is more than a cartographer — she is one of the magical Grisha and her power is to summon the sun. As a sun summoner, Alina may have the power to destroy The Fold forever — if she can master her powers with the help of The Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in the world.

There are so many things I love about this series, but the center is always with Alina. She’s a wonderful heroine for this book — snarky, smart and brave but also insecure, impetuous and real. I also love the setting and the world building that author Leigh Bardugo managed throughout the series. The mythology is clean, the rules of the world are set, and the major questions raised in one book are answered in another. I listened to all three on audio book, narrated by Lauren Fortgang, and thought they were stupendous.

One other thing I want to mention is that this book actually has a bit of a love rhombus (square? quadrangle?) between Alina and three other men: her childhood friend Mal, The Darkling, and a Ravkan prince, Nikolai. Normally I’d hate this, but it works well in this series because there are credible reasons that Alina would chose or reject each of these men that are more serious than just their inability to be honest with each other (as seems to be the case in many YA love triangles). Alina and Mal, for example, have learn how their relationship changes when Alina is no longer dependent on Mal and when she has to make choices about the responsibilities of her power. I love the way it shows that teenage relationships can have real conflict.

If you enjoy fantasy novels, this is a series I highly recommend.

The Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters

The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble

the last policeman trilogy

As I was trying to figure out what to say about this series, I realized by original review of The Last Policeman pretty much sums it up: “The Last Policeman has a lot of the character-driven, introspective sorts of features that you get in literary fiction because of the overarching problem of a world-ending catastrophe, but adds a whodunit murder mystery on top that keeps our main character and the story from bogging down too much in those philosophical questions. Ben H. Winter’s writing is quite lovely — very noir, without being over-the-top — and Peter Berkrot’s narration captures the gritty idealism that drives Hank Palace to keep on keeping on in the midst of the end of the world.”

But that’s not to say that the books are static in any way. One of the things I loved about this series is the way the major questions change in each book as the end of the world approaches. What is the point of solving murders when we’re all doomed? What is the point of being civilized when civilization is crumbling? What do we owe the people we love, and how would we spend our last days on earth? Hank stays remarkably, wonderfully consistent, but the demons he battles with change in each story.

Having just finished World of Trouble a few days ago, I can confidently that Winters absolutely sticks the landing of this trilogy. This is another highly recommended series.

Disclosure: I purchased all three books in The Grisha Trilogy and the first two books in The Last Policeman Trilogy. I received a copy of World of Trouble from the publisher for review consideration. 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) July 15, 2014, 7:42 am

    I think I need to try more of the Last Policeman trilogy. I liked the first book but didn’t love it the way everyone else did – I’m beginning to think I missed something.

    • Kim July 16, 2014, 8:48 pm

      I don’t know. If you didn’t love it then you didn’t love it. I think the series grows to ask bigger questions, but there’s a lot of fundamental similarities from book one to book three.

  • Andi @ Estella's Revenge July 15, 2014, 8:59 am

    I’ve avoided the Grisha Trilogy because I just didn’t know if it was for me, but your recommendation is a strong case for it! I need to probably at least give it a go.

    • Kim July 16, 2014, 8:48 pm

      I recently recommended it to a friend who enjoys fantasy books and he really liked it. I hope you’ll give it a try!

  • JeffH July 15, 2014, 9:18 am

    Picked up World of Trouble today. Looking forward to it!

  • Steph July 15, 2014, 10:22 am

    I will have to give The Last Policeman another shot. I started reading it a while back when I noticed all the positive reviews it was getting from book bloggers, but I made it about 70-80 pages into the first book and just never felt compelled or any urgency to keep reading it. I put it aside as a book that I would try again in the future… your glowing review has convinced me that was the right call. I’ve been struggling to really connect with most of the books I’ve been reading lately so I suspect that it could very well be a case of “right book, wrong time”.

    • Kim July 16, 2014, 8:49 pm

      I know that feeling well. All of the books have a police procedural vibe to them, so if you’re not in the mood for that genre the book probably isn’t going to work.

  • Athira July 15, 2014, 10:59 am

    I LOVED Last Policeman! But I haven’t yet read the following books yet. It isn’t available in my library, but my regional library system recently expanded to included the larger city library, so I cannot wait to get the books from there!

  • Jennifer July 15, 2014, 11:41 am

    I haven’t been reading too many trilogies lately with the exception of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy which I have been really enjoying quite a lot. I like the sound of the two trilogies that you recommended. I hadn’t heard of either one before but I will definitely be checking them out. Good thing I have a bit of a stash of Audible credits. I’ve been having a hard time making decisions on purchases lately!

    • Kim July 16, 2014, 8:50 pm

      I’ve got a stash of credits that keeps growing, but my audio listening has been down this year (aside from the Grisha Trilogy binge I went on in June).

  • Katie @ Words For Worms July 15, 2014, 1:05 pm

    I just finished Shadow and Bone and it fell really flat for me. 🙁 I’m glad you enjoyed it though! I was frustrated enough with a love triangle, I think it’s best that I avoid the love rhombus! I really do want to read The Last Policeman though, that sounds awesome.

    • Kim July 16, 2014, 8:50 pm

      I’m sorry that one didn’t work for you!

  • Jenny @ Reading the End July 15, 2014, 2:16 pm

    Glad to hear Winters sticks the landing on the Last Policeman trilogy! I’ve got World of Trouble sitting around in my living room awaiting my reading of it!

    • Kim July 16, 2014, 8:51 pm

      I thought the ending was perfect. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it felt right.

  • Aarti July 15, 2014, 5:52 pm

    I didn’t realize The Last Policeman was part of a series – I have heard of that book but not the others. I’ll have to look into the series (especially now that it is done – so fun to read a series when you know it is complete!).

    I have Shadow & Bone on my shelf to read, too, just need to get to it 🙂

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm July 16, 2014, 10:03 am

    I read the Grisha books based on your recommendation, yay! I really liked them all… although honestly I wished Alina had picked a different person from the “rhombus”, so the end fell a bit flat for me.. (And according to the Goodreads reviews I’ve read, I’m not alone!)

    I got The Last Policeman from the library 2 months ago, but didn’t have time to read it due to a bunch of review stuff. Having seen all the Ben Winters hype this last week or so… I’m going to have to check it out again!

    • Kim July 16, 2014, 8:52 pm

      We talked about this on Twitter 🙂 The more I think about it, I think Alina’s choice is similar to how I felt about the choice Katniss made. She probably chose the person who is right for her, even if that’s not the person I would have chosen for her. It’s hard to reconcile those feelings!

  • Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf July 16, 2014, 8:10 pm

    I loved the first two books in The Last Policeman trilogy, but haven’t had a chance to get to the last one yet… so I kinda skimmed just in case there’s spoilerish stuff in the post. 😉 But was happy to see you mention it!! 🙂