“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo

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Rating: 5/5

Title: Shadow and Bone

Series: The Grisha Series

Author: Leigh Bardugo

First Published: May 17, 2012

 

“‘I’ve been waiting for you for a long time, Alina,’ he said. ‘You and I are going to change the world.’”

 

Holy crap, I loved this book! I’m going to admit something here – initially I only picked it up because of the gorgeous cover and because the main character and I share the same name. I ended up being sucked into the story from the first page and finished reading the book in three hours. That says it all.

The central topic of Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel is not a new one – an orphan that struggles through life finds she has magical powers and becomes the favourite toy of the rich and powerful. However after reading the first couple of sentences you are hooked. The story is inspired by Russian folklore, the writing is beautiful and the character development and world building are incredible. You get so much detail that you feel like you are there yourself, touching and smelling and feeling everything around you.

The story is set in a land called Ravka, which is ruled over by a king, however it soon becomes apparent that the Darkling, the main antagonist of the story, is the one who is really in control. The land is split in two by a large strip of thick impenetrable darkness called the Shadow Fold. It runs across the length of Ravka and is inhabited by flesh eating creatures called the Volcra. Alina Starkov is an apprentice mapmaker in the army and her and her regimen have to cross the Shadow Fold in order to reach their destination. They are attacked by the Volcra and during this attack her childhood friend Malyen Oretsev is severely injured and Alina discovers that she is a Grisha. Grisha are soldiers of the second army and the elite citizens of Ravka. They live and train in the little palace of Os Alta and they are magical beings with the ability to control different elements, like fire, earth and even the darkness. There are different kinds of Grisha and they all wear differently coloured keftas, or coats, depending on what kind of power they have. Alina’s ability is one of a kind – she can control light.  Alina is being brought to the palace to begin how to learn the ways of the Grisha and train in order to banish the darkness of the Shadow Fold.

What I probably liked best about this book aside from the amazing world building are the characters. Alina is a strong lead. She is far from perfect and we see her struggling a lot with her new found power. It’s very refreshing to read about a lead YA character, who discovers special powers and DOESN’T learn to properly control them over the course of one chapter but instead struggles so much with it. It makes her all the more believable. She’s smart and bold but she doesn’t have a lot of confidence when it comes to herself.

The Darkling… Oh the Darkling… Mysterious and nameless and I have to admit I was rooting for him the second he was introduced in the story. I was hoping and praying it was one of those bad turns good situations. Of course with a name like that I should have known. But still he is one of my favourites and I just love to hate him. Also that scene at the ball with him and Alina in the room together – never have I wanted to transport myself into a book and become one of the characters more! And sweet Mal – he is such a realistic character, caring and flawed. He makes mistakes and he gets things wrong and that makes him wonderfully human. While the Darkling is exciting and dangerous, Mal is reassuring and makes you feel comfortable and safe.

Now with two hot boys in mix of course the next logical course of action would be the dreaded love triangle. I am not a fan of those. Thankfully though it doesn’t read like your typical love triangle. It flows naturally into the plot and doesn’t take over the main focus of the story. “Shadow and Bone” is about a girl who is trying to figure out who she is and where she fits in in this world and how she can eventually save it and I was very pleased by the fact that Leigh Bardugo decided to keep that in the foreground and not turn it into a story about love.

The plot is intricate and dark, filled with political intrigue and a bit of romance sprinkled on top. The pacing is fast and exciting and the characters are incredibly well developed. I highly recommend this book to everybody who has a remote interest in fantasy. It will blow your mind!

— Alina xx

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