Shadow and Bone

By Leigh Bardugo
Published on June 5th 2012
Published by: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: Borrowed from Coranne
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.
Let me show you my feelings about this book in GIF format:

   
 

YOU GUYS.  I'd had this book on my to-read list FOREVER, mostly because Coranne kept talking about how good it was, but I kept bumping it down the list in favor of other books that needed to be read more immediately.  And then an ARC of Siege and Storm, the next book in the Grisha series, landed on my desk.  Aha, motivation!

And now, of course, I'm like "why did I wait so long?!?"  Because this book pretty much had me hooked from the beginning, and I pulled a "stay up to all hours of the night" act to finish reading it.  It takes a lot to suck me in to the point where I ignore my need for sleep, but Shadow and Bone definitely did just that.

Coranne previously reviewed this book on the blog, but I can't resist spewing all of my feelings all over you, too.

Shadow and Bone was the kind of fantasy book that I love the best - a somewhat familiar yet completely foreign world, with magic and dark creatures and fascinating social and political structures.  Alina spent her life as an orphan girl, growing up with her best friend Mal.  Now they're both teenagers in Ravka's army, set to take a trip across the treacherous, deadly Shadow Fold.  Alina's life changes in an instant whenever it's discovered that she has a very rare, special power that could forever change Ravka's fate.  She goes from being a poor mapmaker to being ensconced in the rich, privileged world of the Grisha, a group of powerful people who have strong, mystical abilities.

Alina spends a lot of time trying to adjust to this new life and this new power that she never even knew that she had.  The middle section of the book can get a bit repetitive, or at least it feels very familiar, as Alina struggles to fit in, make friends, and succeed at her new studies.  The characters and the world of the Grisha make the story very engaging, however, so I didn't mind that so much, and besides, Alina's new world is turned upside down in a plot twist I probably should have seen coming, but definitely did not, which made me love it even more.  With the biggest twist, I kept hoping that the characters had wrong information or that it was all a misunderstanding -- I wanted so badly for things to turn out differently!

Coranne mentioned this in her review, but I wanted to emphasize it here -- Leigh Bardugo did something very few other authors have done, which is that she made me invested in the love triangle Alina finds herself in.  We all know how much I whine and complain about crappy love interests and people who have no chemistry, but that definitely wasn't the case in this book.  Barely ever do I find myself rooting for both guys in a love triangle, but I sure was in this case!

Bardugo has an excellent, descriptive writing style, and I could really see this book working well as a movie. Her descriptions of clothing, the way she writes action sequences, the way she makes your heart break for the terrible circumstances Alina often finds herself in -- it's just pretty much perfect.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out one thing that made me uneasy in the book -- there is so much emphasis on how beautiful all of the Grisha are, and how plain Alina is in comparison.  People are constantly suggesting that she do something about her looks, and while Alina refuses, all of the powerful people in the story are extremely, unnaturally beautiful.  The reason for this is a minor plot point, but I really felt like it was unnecessary -- if the focus needed to be on something superficial to make it clear how different Alina was from the rest of the Grisha, they could have focused more on peasants vs. the upper-class.  I'm just tired of seeing a character's stereotypical good looks, or lack thereof, being so important to the plot.

I am thrilled at how much I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes a little fantasy, a little magic, a bad guy who isn't your typical mustache-twirling transparent bad guy, and some very tense, heart-breaking action.  I can't wait to make time to read the next book!

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