Author: Leigh Bardugo| Website
Publication Date:June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
My Interest: Hype
Age Group | Genre: YA | Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Adventure
Series: Yes, The Grisha Series
When I found Shadow and Bone on my library’s shelves, I felt as if I was finally about to enter the crazy world in which everyone has been talking about. I mean, if Veronica Roth blurbs the book, “Unlike anything I’ve ever read,” then it has to be good.
I have heard so much about this book before I picked it up, but I admit, I have sort of avoided reading it until now because the title sounded too much like Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And we all know how I feel about that, so I was afraid Shadow and Bone would be too close to that story but not good enough to suit my fancy.
Boy was I WRONG.
I LOVED this.
Go. Read it now.
Orphaned because of the border wars, Alina Starkov is the last person on earth to think she could ever rank as a Grisha. After all, she was tested when she was young and no special powers showed. Since then, all she ever cared about was her best friend Mal, but when the two of them are drafted into the First Army and sent into the darkness of the Fold, life changes. The convoy is attacked and Alina miraculously saves them–with something powerful inside of her. Suddenly, Alina is ripped from the life she knows and the only person she could ever rely on to be trained in the royal court as a member of the Grisha–the magical elite under the leadership of the Darkling. Alina discovers that her dormant power is in fact a power that could save all of the kingdom. That is until she realizes why the Darkling has chosen her as his favorite, and his secret sets her on a journey that could rip her away from Mal forever.
When I closed this book after finishing it in about two days, all I could think was whoa. The book has an After chapter, and when I closed the final page I was extremely excited to have read another standalone book with a somewhat ambiguous ending, but what I thought was an ending nonetheless.
Then I read this blog post by the author and I was all whoa times infinity! I had no idea this was going to be a trilogy which just goes to show you how far behind on the hype about this book I am. I was a teensy bit disappointed just because I’m sort of over the whole trilogy aspect of the YA genre (I want to know where all the stand alones have gone!), but I was much more excited than disappointed because I loved Shadow and Bone, and I want to see the story continue.
Firstly, I loved the setting of the novel. It is very Russian-esque and dark. Shadow and Bone is full-on fantasy kingdom (think Lord of the Rings), and Bardugo’s world building is magnificent–especially since this is a debut novel. One thing I loved-LOVED-about this novel is that the first few pages are a map of the kingdom. I get giddy over fantasy maps (I am still looking for a beautiful rendition of Narnia & Middle Earth to hang in my classroom/office/library someday.) Plus, when an author creates a world, I enjoy having something visual to flip back to. I just find it a neat extra to the story.
But, back to her world.
It is very obvious that the world of Shadow and Bone is reminiscent of Russia, and I love the atmosphere that built around me as I was reading. This was another novel that I easily fell into. Bardugo writes beautiful, descriptive passages, especially when Alina and Mal are in the woods, and I just appreciate the detail and creativity that went into this setting.
I did find the story to be a little confusing in terms of characters, though. The Grisha are a group of people born with some sort of magical powers–they are the Masters of the Small Science– and they are ranked according to their powers. I often was confused between the Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki and then the sub ranks of those, so it was great that there was also a list of the groups’ rank at the beginning of the novel. This seems to be a typical trait of the fantasy novels –a reader has to learn the language in order to understand the author’s imagination. With Shadow and Bone, I simply felt that I was not always given enough information early on about who was who and what their power was, and so I had to work a little harder than I wanted too to figure characters out. But this was not a big enough issue to hinder my reading of the novel.
I also thought Alina was a great character. She ended up being a really strong heroine and when it comes to her powers, she had to find the strength and confidence in herself in order to use them. I think that is an awesome-wonderful-tremendous message to send to girls. As for the romance part, I’ll just say right now that the Darkling ticked me off. He is a a jerk, and yes, i have come to despise him. Though, my imagination tells me he is pretty nice to look at so I’m warring with myself over the jerk thing. However, I have found that in life it really is those close guy friends that matter, so I’ll just mention*without spoilers* that the ending really, REALLY made me happy.
Overall, I rated this novel a 5 because it’s imaginative, original, and full of great characters. Yes, it is a little confusing a first, but once the reader gets inside the author’s imagination, it’s a great read for dreary fall days. (Come on now… do not even pretend that you weren’t confused at first when you started the LOTR.) I do still think that Shadow and Bone could have been a great standalone novel, but I’m curious and excited to see where the story goes! Not to mention the fact that it has been optioned for a movie. Hello?!? Awesome.
If you like this novel, you might like….
Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas
Graceling by Kristen Cashore
[for ratings system, please check out my Bookshelf]