Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on June 5, 2012
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 358
Read From: 5.14.14 - 5.15.14

Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they're sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. 
When the convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold. 
Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling's favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her. . . .and only she can save the future.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Oh yes, I love the cover. It's all gray and black and silver - and there's a Russian castle!! Also, I didn't notice it until I read the book, but I love how the antlers from the hart are on the front.

Characters: I really liked Alina. She had a lot of potential to be annoying, but her reluctance to be the "savior" of Ravka came across as genuine, and not pretension. She had reasonable objections, but she didn't get whiny (though her frustration certainly showed through at times). Alina was just a normal girl who is suddenly swept away in a whirlwind of politics and sudden power. I only hope she doesn't become emotionally traumatized like Katniss. Mal took some warming up before I was no longer dubious. He wasn't a jerk, but he was . . . . oblivious to Alina. But as the story progressed, I came to like Mal a bit better, though I'm not sure he'll ever be a favorite. He serves a purpose to the story. Ivan is a total bully, but I liked him; he was wonderfully horrid. And Zoya, the resident pretty mean girl, was - as usual - hateable (though I am getting a little tired of talent and beauty being synonymous with snobbery). I adored Genya, Alina's only real friend and lady's maid (more or less). She had a great sense of humor and was just fun. And now for the Darkling. . . .[Spoiler] The Darkling is a villain. [End spoiler] I really liked him, before his true purposes were known, and even afterward. He was just so awesome. I genuinely thought he was a good guy, and when his agenda was made known, I still felt sorry for him. I just get the feeling that there's a whole lot more to his backstory than we know. He lands somewhere on my favorite villain/anti-hero list.

The Romance: A love triangle threatens, but it doesn't go anywhere. I did like the romance between Mal and Alina. They were childhood friends and Alina's feelings grow into something more. But she's mature about the relationship. Because their feelings were already established, the romance didn't feel rushed. My only complaint? I still don't really like Mal all that much. I don't know why, but I don't. So while I'm all happy about Alina and Mal's childhood crush turning into love, I'm not sure I would be sorry if Mal died, either.

Plot: The kingdom of Ravka is torn in two - literally - by a great expanse of dark wasteland called the Fold. Unnatural, human-devouring creatures live in the Fold, and thousands die just trying to cross it to get to the other side of Ravka. Something must be done about the Fold, before it effects Ravka's economy and defenses permanently. Alina Starkov is just another orphan, serving her time in the military. But when she and her childhood friend Mal have to cross the Fold, something amazing happens: Alina's powers as a Sun Summoner - a bringer of light - are made known. Before she knows it, the Darkling - leader of the Grisha - has taken her to be trained at the Little Palace. Alina, the only Sun Summoner in Ravka, may be the one who can beat back the Fold and reunite Ravka once more. The world in this book is incredible. I loved everything about it, from the Russian styles to the explanation behind the Grisha and their powers. Even if I didn't like Mal all that much, I became so totally immersed in the world that I didn't really care. The Author has done a ton of world building, and there's just no way that anyone could dislike it (unless you just totally hate Russian styles and culture). Setting world building aside for a moment, the plot itself was also very good - but it also mostly consisted of world building, so how could I not enjoy it? Alina spends a while getting used to life as a Grisha and trying to control her power. Might be boring for some, but I enjoyed it. It gave us an opportunity to get to know the characters, the politics, the world, and how exactly Grisha operated. And there's a constant undertone of foreboding.

Believability: The roles of women in the military are realistic.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Alina's sense of ironic humor really shows through her narration, which I enjoyed; it made her personality shine through. The Author was very good at describing things, and I loved all of the Russian words - real and made up - that she threw in.

Content: None beyond one quite heated kiss.

Conclusion: I did see the twist coming, I suppose, though I'm not sure it was supposed to be hidden. I'm not sure why it took me so bloody long to pick Shadow and Bone up; it's right up my alley. I was immensely surprised at how unannoying the female protagonist was, and that the romance was mostly in the background. I adored the world and the side characters, and the Darkling was just awesome. I wish he had a different name, though. It's too much like the Dark Lord or the Dark One. Unoriginal, and not intimidating.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, seventeen-and-up, fans of Russian culture and styles, and fantasy.

Others in The Grisha Trilogy:
1)Shadow and Bone
2)Siege and Storm
3)Rise and Ruin


  1. I'm glad you liked it! I think I read the first two sentences when I was in a bad reading mood, put it down, and never went back. Maybe I'll give it another shot. :)

    1. Just have patience with Mal. ;) And it may seem like there's a love triangle, but there isn't one. Kinda hard to explain, but it becomes pretty evident why it doesn't work.


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