Why I didn't like Mal in the Grisha Trilogy
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Why I didn’t like Mal in the Grisha Trilogy

Hello readers! I wanted to write this post ever since I read Pages Unbound’s post on “when true love doesn’t conquer all in YA” which made me write a big comment expressing “why I didn’t like Mal in the Grisha trilogy”.

I recommend you read Krysta’s post first as her post inspired me to write my own post with my thoughts. In her post, Krysta fantastically writes how Mal and Alina’s relationship in the Grisha trilogy was very realistic, how it wasn’t all lovey-dovey and didn’t have the usual ‘love conquers all’ philosophy. While I agreed to most of the things Krysta said, I commented (and I still think) ‘no matter how realistic the portrayal of the relationship was, I wouldn’t like Mal’.

Now, that I have read all books in Grishaverse, I can see I liked every main character in each series except Mal in the Grisha trilogy.

So here are my reasons “Why I didn’t like Mal in the Grisha Trilogy”

Mal in the Grisha Trilogy

(There might be spoilers so if you still haven’t read Grisha trilogy and plan to read, return to this post when you have read the series)

My first thought about Mal was, insufferable, egoistic, and selfish. Yes, I wasn’t surprised he was related to Darkling! Give him Darkling’s power and let’s see how it turns out. I wouldn’t say he was all bad but at the same time I wouldn’t say he was all good, a hero with a pure heart, sacrificing everything for the person he loves. Okay, he did just that at the end of the trilogy but until then he made many mistakes and what made me dislike him the most was his actions, reactions, and expectations.

Mal’s hesitation and insecurity are well-founded. Social class differences and Alina’s steady rise in position among Grishas and Ravka court is no small thing for both Mal and Alina who came from nothing, who didn’t know the shine and comfort of the court, nor they knew anything about power play until they got quite tangled in Ravka politics and Darkling’s scheme. It’s not easy to see the person you love rise and enjoy the position. Sooner or later it, of course, was going to affect the relationship and Mal wasn’t wrong feeling insecure and also jealous. Very few men can handle their ego and seeing their lovers keep rising the power ladder. I wouldn’t say he was wrong feeling the same but where he was wrong he reacted and behaved.

Let’s start with the first book- I hated it when he kept frolicking with other girls before Alina got her powers. He literally ignored Alina, and flirted with others in her presence thinking ‘we are just friends, there is nothing between us, Alina is there to stay no matter what’. As soon as Alina got her power and starts walking on her own path, he suddenly found he loved her! okay, maybe I’m being harsh and it wasn’t sudden and he realized his feelings when he was on the mission, all alone, when Alina wasn’t around all the time, her realized what he was missing and why.

When he returns and finally gets a chance to meet her, he didn’t approach her, yes maybe because what he witnessed freaked him out but when Alina approached him and tried to talk to him, how he reacts? Like a jealous prick, he accuses her of enjoying her Grisha power and Darkling’s company, not responding to his letters, when Alina said she never received his letters and he also didn’t reply her letters he just ignores her like she was lying. He couldn’t handle her power and popularity and his reaction was terrible. It proved he just thought about himself and not Alina. He didn’t care to ask her if she is fine and if she is okay with this new power… not as a friend, not as a courtesy, not as thanks for saving his life on the ship.

He just assumed she was good and enjoying everything because she looked good and felt powerful and not just that but he made her feel bad about it, never thinking he truly was making her feel alone when she thought he is the only family she ever had.

In the second book, he tells her to go off the grid not to return Ravka (until they were forced to), and never use her power even though he knew using powers made her healthy. So he loved her, her safety was important to him but not her health! He was okay if she felt ill and looked grey for not using her power but was attracted to Zoya who looked radiant for being a powerful Grisha! Why should she leave her magic and position when she could make difference in Ravka, when she was given a chance and why for him?

Alina never showed she was above him nor gave any reason to make him feel she would lose interest in him. Sure, Alina and Darkling’s relationships were complicated, Alina and Nikolai were getting close but why wouldn’t they, both powerful men were offering the world to her and Alina was just human, it was natural she felt attracted to them when Mal was hell-bent on ignoring her, pushing her away making himself look all noble saying he is giving her chance to have everything in life and wouldn’t want to get in a way!! He didn’t want to know why she felt off or what is happening to her but instead, he again assumes things and goes on and kissed Zoya! Who does that!!

On the one hand, he claims to love her. On the other hand, he ignores, pushes her away and humiliates her by kissing Zoya in front of everyone and then making it look like it was because of Alina, ugh!!

And now that I have finished all books in this series I feel Mal and Alian’s relationship survived everything because they both lost their power. If Alina still had her power, I very much doubt they would have had their happily ever after, so that says a lot about Mal.

Thank you for reading! Let’s chat..,

What do you think about this post?
Did you like Mal? Do you agree with my reasons? Why and why not?

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”


  • Domonique V WELLINGTON

    It’s not like he and his friends were out DYING looking for a stag to help her (remember that he thinks she’s been Kidnapped and maybe even tortured) of course seeing her happy is gonna shock and maybe even anger him.

    Also, whats with the obsession of saying “he only loved her when she got powers?” The book CLEARLY explains that he would go looking for her and remember that she’s gone and that made him realise when he said “we’ll be together forever” he meant that LITERALLY, as in forever forever.

    Of course he didn’t want her to use her powers, if ANYONE saw they’d be caught and sent to the Darkling. Or killed. He knew it made her look ill but he still thought she was beautiful, as the book showed. Also she left because there was a 600 year old psycho trying to control her and kill him….why do people pretend he just wanted her away from anyone else for funsies? He was worried. As any man would be for the woman he loved.

    Of course he was jealous of two rich powerful men going after his girlfriend. Who wouldn’t be? And he didn’t kiss Zoya, he was drunk and battered and SHE kissed him. She even says he never gave her the time of day when sober. If this was a woman no one would try to blame him but since it’s a man…

    • Books Teacup and Reviews

      I get that perspective but I’m still not okay with him kissing Zoya and even though Zoya kissed him, he kissed her back and then he was trying to put the blame on Alina. If he cannot handle his drink he should not drink! He was drinking and fighting and kissing deliberately. Zoya wouldn’t go after men unless they show interest. She didn’t even go after Nikolai even thought they shared the feelings.

      They were being careful enough and even with Alina not using her powers Darkling still could see her though their connection, he had way to find her.

      Girlfriend or not, he didn’t want her to fight for nation when she clearly wanted to. Why the girl is supposed to understand when he could support her and talk to her rather than showing insecurities that clearly made her not share everything with him.

      I stand by what I said, I very much doubt they would have had their happily ever after and that they kind of showed in TV show.

      The book Mal wasn’t all nice and lovely. He had many faults.

      • Domo

        I agree that Mal had many faults, that’s one of the reasons I liked his character. He 100% shouldn’t have been around Zoya but I can’t blame a drunk person for getting kissed. I just can’t.

        The Darkling could see her but Mal had no idea he could do that. He’s just a normal human so the Darklings powers are a huge question mark for him.

        I wouldn’t want my girlfriend to fight for a nation either. Especially one that orphaned us and treated us like dirt our whole lives. Alina got to meet really nice Grisha at the palace but Mal never got that luxury. Every Grisha he met either looked down on him or tried to kill him.

        Feeling insecure is normal for any relationship. And when you have 2 high status men constantly getting access to your girlfriend it would piss off any man. Especially when both seem to REALLY enjoy kissing and touching your GR and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

  • Carla

    I did not and probably will not be reading the Grisha trilogy, but it was interesting to read your comments. I can see why you didn’t like Mal based on your comments and reasoning. It’s interesting that to one person something is interpreted one way and causes the character to be unlikable and someone else’s interpretation might be totally different.

  • Sumedha @ the wordy habitat

    “If Alina still had her power, I very much doubt they would have had their happily ever after, so that says a lot about Mal.” THE. TEA. 👏
    I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the trilogy and I don’t plan to. I have seen the show and will watch it, though. While reading the reviews after S1 of the show, I saw many people say how Mal was bad in the books and thankfully he is likeable in the show. One place where they used the adaptation to make a good change. I was surprised by a couple of spoilers that you mentioned (I’m not worried about knowing them though) and the last bit especially. Like, I don’t know their journey and how they lost their powers but the fact that it took THAT for them to end up together peacefully? Oof.

    • Books Teacup and Reviews

      I haven’t watched the show yet. I love books, this series, world and every character (except Mal) from Grisha trilogy, Six of crows and King of scars and I don’t want to ruin it. But I finally started watching it and I’m just 2 episode in the show and I already see lots of changes they made with the show specially with Kaz being hired to abduct Alina which never happen in books but well I would like to see if what everyone says about Mal in show is true or not. If you like the show I recommend you read books. It’s really good… you will be in for huge journey full of surprises and action. Even with spoilers the journey is fabulous to read.

  • Tessa

    I haven’t read this series but I love that you did a post on why you don’t like Mal. It’s very interesting and insightful. Excellent post!

  • Teri Polen

    I haven’t read the book series and only know Mal from the Netflix series, so I don’t really have an opinion on him yet. But I sure am excited for season 2 this month.

  • WendyW

    I haven’t quite finished the series, I just have Rule of Wolves to go. I was never a big fan of Mal, and did feel a bit let down that she chose him at the end.

  • Briana | Pages Unbound

    Mal is related to the Darkling??? You can tell I didn’t read Rule of Wolves or whatever that’s in. :p (I did see your spoiler warning! I just don’t care about spoilers! 😀 )

    Great post! It’s been a while since I read the first two Shadow and Bone books (and I never read the third), so I am not sure I have a full opinion on Mal myself.

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