Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co by June 5, 2012
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, High Fantasy, Love & Romance, Magic, Paranormal, Series, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.
Critical Rating: ★★★★
Entertainment Rating: ★★★★.5
Overall Rating: ★★★★.25
Plot: Medium paced | Perfectly flowing | Addictive
Characters: All characters are fully developed | Three dimensional | Realistic and relatable | Beautifully flawed
World Building: Vividly crafted | Complicated | Well thought out | Interesting to read about
Writing: First person | Keeps the reader engaged | Voices of each character were distinct | Simple but beautiful
To everyone who has been trying to
force convince me to finally start The Grisha trilogy… You were absolutely right! Shadow & Bone was such an amazing story filled with complex characters, intriguing world building all wrapped up in Leigh Bardugo’s simple but to the point writing. Basically what I am trying to say is, I LOVED IT ❤ So thank you all for that final push to get me started!
To start off, Leigh Bardugo did something that is so difficult to achieve in YA Literature. The story could have gone either of two ways; one being the dusted off road that all authors seem to stroll through with perfect characters and their bright eyes, shiny hair, and skinny but somehow curvy “magical” body. She could have easily made Alina this amazingly kick butt, strong, scary smart female protagonist that sweeps us all onto our feet. Alina could have been the typical YA heroine but she wasn’t and that’s what I loved most about her. Instead, Leigh Bardugo took the dark unclear path for her debut novel, making her characters that much more realistic and relatable. She wasn’t scared to show off their flaws and vulnerability and boy oh boy did they all have so many. But that was the point. Their not perfect nature made them perfect. Perfectly loveable.
If you couldn’t already tell from that awkward intro, I really, really loved Alina. She was such an amazing perspective to read from and the way she portrayed things made complete sense. I loved how through most of the novel, Alina struggled with her capabilities to control her powers. Unlike most YA characters, she continued to fail miserably hundreds of thousands of times before even getting close to the top. It was embarrassing for even me to read about, but soon enough I realized that you have to start somewhere in order to succeed. Her problems felt real. She felt like me.
“Of course not. And there’s nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you are born to be a hawk.”
Now, I have to shamefully admit that I did not like Mal one bit through over two thirds of the novel. He was too much like Gale from The Hunger Games and believe me when I say that I had enough of “Gale like characters” to last me a lifetime. However in the last couple of chapters, Mal says the most swoon worthy things to Alina, redeeming himself and reminding me in the process that not all childhood friends are Gales. After finishing the book I honestly have no idea what to feel about him. I like him but not that much. Do you get what I mean?
“I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me.”
And finally the reason that I can’t completely fall heads over heels in love with Mal… The Darkling ❤ Okay, okay I know he is “the villain” of the story but I just love him so much! He was such a intricate, three dimensional character and I had absolutely no idea how Bardugo would make his character arc. One moment I thought I knew all of his secret plans but the next I was completely and utterly lost. The thing that I know for sure is that he grabbed onto my heart, tied my hands behind my back and wouldn’t ever let go.
“Fine,” he said with a weary shrug. “Make me your villain.”
The thing that I absolutely have to mention about Bardugo’s characters are the side, smaller ones. One of my biggest bookish pet peeves is when the seemingly “insignificant characters” are one dimensional and boring. The main reason is the simple fact that they are not insignificant. Side characters can really make or break the full development of the book. And I am so glad to be able to say that Bardugo did a 100% wonderful job. Regardless of the length of their page time, all characters were fully developed and enjoyable. My favourite would definitely have to be Genya, she was hilarious and such a wonderful female friend. I loved how she delivered some comic relief when it was much needed and how she had her small story in the midst of all things Alina.
Shadow & Bone’s pacing and plot was something special. While it is a fantasy novel, it wasn’t speedy or fast paced at all. It was rather slow, not slow as in rip out your hair slow but slow nevertheless. However, it never once keep me from wanting to continue on with the story and I was fully immersed from beginning to end. Along with the slow pace, there was not even much of a plot. I know a lot of fantasies have heart wrenching plot twists that keep you on the edge of your seat, but Shadow & Bone was more of a character driven novel. The story smoothly followed Alina’s development as she discovers her powers and everything fit perfectly like a puzzle. As well, the writing was breathtakingly phenomenal. It was simple but to the point, descriptive but not overly so and had hints of sarcastic humour. The voices for each character were their own and it really helped portray the characters’ personalities clearly. I was engaged to say the least, gripping to Bardugo’s every single word.
Though it seems like I loved absolutely everything about Shadow & Bone, it isn’t necessarily true. There were several minor issues that were in the back of my head, continuously bugging me throughout the whole novel. The first being the world building. While it was amazingly well developed, it was also confusing and not explained quite well enough. The Russian influence was interesting, but instead of providing us with a clear explanation, Bardugo thrusted us head first into The Grisha world. I was drowning in an ocean full of new terms and places and I had to fight my way for oxygen. Throughout my life, I have read a lot of fantasy so it wasn’t too much of a struggle, but readers who are new to this genre may have a harder time.
Another downer was the fact that some parts of the book unfortunately crossed over the cliche line. We have what I like to call the “Special Snowflake Syndrome” when Alina discovers her powers, and disappointingly there seems to be a love triangle in process. Additionally, I had a rather difficult time staying attached to the characters during the first 200 or so pages and wouldn’t have really cared if they tragically died. However, don’t let these negative points stir you away from reading this book because I promise you the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. (That and the fact that you need to meet The Darkling <3)
Overall, Shadow & Bone was a solid start to what already looks like an amazing series. Though I am sure that most of you have already gotten around to this book, if there are still any of you that are hesitant to pick it up, I would definitely give it a go. If you are looking for a YA fantasy trilogy that takes the characters, plot and writing to the next level, Shadow & Bone will most likely be your best bet.
Have you read Shadow & Bone or are you planning to? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Thanks for reading lovelies xoxo,