Book Review: Shadow And Bone

Click to buy on Amazon, or support your local bookstore!

Click to buy on Amazon, or support your local bookstore!

5 out of 5 stars

Format: Library Paperback - YA fantasy - Goodreads summary:

"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."

First of all…
OOPS! It’s been a minute since I gave myself time to sit down and write out these book reviews! Instead of just skipping them and moving onto the next, I want to take time to let everyone know how inspiring these books are! Not just in the story and the seedling of hope, but in Bardugo’s writing style and ability to craft amazing worlds for us to live in, even if for a little while. So bear with me as I scrounge up some opinions from back in July when I finished this book…

Useful Definitions: these might be helpful as you keep reading
Grisha: a person born with innate magical abilities to affect people, elements, or environments around them. 
The Darkling: the power-hungry sidekick ruler to the king who is super dark and twisty. Obvi.
Leigh Bardugo: author/enchantress who weaves magic with her words. Read all her books. Now.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: What can I say, Bardugo is the queen of dark fantasy drama with just enough hope to keep us frantically turning pages. Finally, a fantasy novel that isn't all about who the main character smooches! I mean, there are smooches, don't get me wrong. But this book is so much more than that. Alina and Mal's friendship is adorable, the world makes sense within the universe, and the style is seamless. Get your hands on this book and all the others Bardugo has blessed us with!

SETTING: Bardugo has said many times that she’s inspired by the richness of Russian and Baltic culture. That’s evident here by how she paints each scene from the castle, to the training grounds, to the Fold, and the wilderness Alina travels with Mal. I honestly don’t think the fantasy maps in the book cover (which is super popular these days) are even necessary. We see everything as the author sees, while still leaving wiggle room for our own interpretation. Which I LOVE! Over-descriptions bore me and I usually start to skim.

The Darkling: Anyone else waiting for the Darkling's redemption arc in books 2 and 3? I love a bad boy, and I especially love a likeable bad boy. He’s complex, but we’re not bogged down by a sympathetic backstory either. We know we’re supposed to hate him… and yet it’s a little hard to because he’s mysterious. I do enjoy a good trope, so I’m not even bothered by his cliché brooding. I thought Alina’s interactions with him were super realistic—I could really relate to her choices around him, however wrong they might be.

Alina: I hate perfect main characters because they're soooo boring. PTL Alina is wonderfully imperfect but still heroic enough to carry her own story. Her early training is so believable, and I love how Bardugo avoided the trope of "oh golly I just realized I have magical powers! And I'm damn good at them already." Alina's journey is beautifully paced, and her growth makes sense given what is happening around her. Perhaps my biggest praise would be for Alina's agency as a character. Too often (especially in YA), we see characters who move at the whim of the world around them, and I think this is a dangerous message for YA readers. Alina is empowered with the help of her trusty sidekicks, and even when doubt arises, she manages to withstand the hardship, which is admirable and encourage to the young eyes reading her story (yes, I'm old). 

Genya: I love reading this book and then hopping right into Crooked Kingdom (same world, different series) to see Genya's return. Spoiler: she's different and I'm not sure how she gets this way, but I'm pretty sure I'll find out in books 2 and 3 of The Grisha Trilogy. She's quirky, funny, feminine, and super talented. I loved her relationship with Alina. It was also cool to see the tension between the different ranks of Grisha--it felt very real and reminiscent of a lot of conflict within similar groups today.

I think I’ve already spoken to the believability and the style of this book. What else can be said? If you’re a fantasy reader (YA or otherwise), grab a copy to read fireside this winter. You won’t regret it!