Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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 their 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.”

Hardcover: 358 Pages

Series:  The Grisha Trilogy #1

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

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I really liked this book. However, it’s not a perfect novel by any standards. The world building is slim and we have more details of the palace Alina ends up in than we have of the world itself.

More details about the Grisha and how their powers worked would have been nice. For example, is it a family trait? And if so, will her dead parents matter in this case? There are a lot of things left unaddressed.
BUT! what makes Shadow and Bone a really good book are the characters.

Complex, powerful, interesting characters, starting with Alina, whom I loved. She’s smart, funny and sarcastic and undergoes a complete transformation during the course of the book.

From ugly duckling – a skinny, plain, orphaned girl whom no one gave a second look – to beautiful swan – a powerful and one of a kind Sun Summoner dressed in silk and held high by the people as the last hope they have of fighting the darkness.

And if you think that’s all there is to it, you might find yourself thinking – just like I did – that this is a pretty standard YA novel. Alas, you’d be wrong. The whole theme of the book is power; who has it and what can be done with it.

Unaware of it at first, Alina is just a pawn in a game of power. Everybody wants her for their own reasons. Whether they think she can save them and destroy the Fold or they want to use her in other, more destructive, ways, they all like the idea of her and her power far better than they like her.

And, willing or not, she changes because of these circumstances, culminating with her decision at the end of the book, which made her that more real in my eyes.

~SPOILERr~Seriously, I don’t know many real people who would choose to save hundreds of complete stranger instead of the one real person they love and that’s sitting right in front of them.~SPOILER~

And the Darkling. Ahh, yes. I better see more of him in the second installment. As much as he’s hypnotic and enticing, he’s dangerous and ancient and untrustworthy. His interactions with Alina were perfectly written and very interesting. It seems she brings out both the worst and best in him and vice versa might be right too. More, please!

I enjoyed Bardugo’s writing. Very descriptive, clean and easy to follow.

All in all, despite it’s flaws that hopefully will be addressed in the second book, Shadow and Bone was a lovely, entertaining and intense read and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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