Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1 (1/3)
Published by Henry Holt & Co. on June 5, 2012
Genres: [Young Adult] High/Epic Fantasy
4 Stars, Completed June 17, 2015
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2:52 am. That was the time I finished the book. I know for some of you avid, voracious readers reading past 2 am is nothing, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve pulled a late night because I was too absorbed in a book. Shadow and Bone was just that good. There were a few aspects I weren’t a fan of hence why it didn’t get 5 stars, but it definitely awakened the fangirl in me.
In Shadow and Bone, the nation of Ravka has been divided into two for centuries due to the creation of the Shadow Fold, a stretch of darkness that houses flesh-eating monsters making it impossible for the people of Ravka to cross it. Alina Starkov is a young, plain orphan but as she travels the Fold for the first time she discovers some dormant powers within her. Soon she’s thrown into the magical world of the Grisha elite, where she’s sent to train at the Little Palace. The Darkling, the most powerful and mysterious Grisha, takes an interest in her and claims that she can save Ravka’s people by destroying the Fold. Despite being swept up into this new lifestyle and charmed by the Darkling’s suggestive persuasions, she can’t help but remember her childhood best friend, Mal, and her previous life.
From my short summary alone, it already sounds like a formulaic, young adult read, doesn’t it? And I can’t deny that it isn’t. Alina is another mundane girl that happens to discover that she has profound powers that can save the world (or in this case kingdom). Of course, in the process she has a guy that helps her achieve this. And there’s an evil dude. And a love triangle. This was very much a generic ya read, but you know what? It being one didn’t bother me at all.
There were a bunch of elements that made it a unique enough read for me. The writing is simple but very engaging. And what made the story so compelling to read was the characters. Originally, I thought Alina was a boring protagonist but her character goes through a lot of development after some events and she becomes much more interesting. Then there’s sweet and caring Mal that happens to be completely oblivious to Alina’s romantic feelings towards him. I enjoyed every single appearance he made in the book. There’s the dark and mysterious Darkling, a character I fell for immediately. But I was pretty annoyed that the Darkling had an interest in Alina in the beginning. It was too sudden and things became a little predictable because of it. And where did that kiss come from?? I was also so invested with the slow burning romance in Shadow and Bone. I am totally in favor of this love triangle as strange as that sounds.
Also, the overall world building was well done. I know a lot of readers that didn’t like this book claimed that the Russian inspired elements were a bit off and on the weak side. And it’s true, this isn’t a Russian mythology tale, but that wasn’t actually how The Grisha trilogy was originally slated. Leigh Bardugo once mentioned that Ravka and its language was only heavily inspired by Russia and most of the terms were self-invented by her in order to keep it simple. And in doing that, I thought it really helped her readers not become overwhelmed with learning new terms and having to flip to a glossary.
However, the pace of Shadow and Bone was pretty wonky. The first half that explained Ravka, the Grisha hierarchy, and Alina’s preparation to cross the Fold was on the slower side; but the remaining half was extremely fast pace. This and the sudden kiss from the Darkling was what made me deduct the star, but both are minor flaws. I really loved Shadow and Bone overall.
I don’t tend to prefer immediately writing reviews for books after I’ve read them just because I need time to think clearly. And I was definitely not thinking clearly by the end of this book. Shadow and Bone gave me an unwarranted book hangover I did not see coming. Good thing there’s still two more books! I’m for sure going to start Siege and Storm today. (I told myself to wait until I posted this review, haha. Restraint, Summer. Restraint.)