Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Square Fish on May 7th 2013
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Length: 358 pages Source: SantaThing
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Book Depository • IndieBound
Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal--and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina's extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart--and her country--in two.
In a YA fantasy world where everything is all about the romantic relationships, this was a breath of fresh air. At times I think Bardugo wanted the romance to take over, but this didn’t read like a romance to me at all. Which was nice. Because I like plots.
I didn’t find the male characters particularly impressive – Mal and the Darkling are pretty much the only ones we see, although I did like Alexei at the beginning. However, I did enjoy Alina, Genya, and Zoya. I thought Alina was genuine and reactive while Genya was sweet and smart. If the story had gone in that direction, I think that Alina and Genya would have made an excellent team… but of course we followed the relationship instead of the friendship.
Zoya was an interesting character. She only appeared a couple times, but always with importance. I suspect Bardugo was just playing her up as the “mean girl” but honestly, I would like to see her come back as someone who switches sides. Baghra as well seemed to be a character with a lot more to offer… I hope we see her again as well.
Maybe it’s because I read this in February, but Shadow and Bone felt cold. Despite the fact that Bardugo describes sunshine and the sea and the lake where the Summoners practice… the vibe I got from this story was very “tundra, dark, despairing, gloomy”. Which I liked. A lot. I love my forest-based fantasies, but every once and a while it’s nice to have something a little different!
Although she doesn’t go deeply into detail about it, the concept of Small Science is so important to this story. Magic must always have rules and reason and limitation. Most stories don’t discuss this as all, even to have it mentioned as a theory, but I like knowing that Bardugo has really thought this through.
The concept of the superficial monarchy and the rise of the Grisha is also and interesting element to this world. We are shown hierarchy and chaos in the first chapters of the story, and it will keep everything structured.
At the surface, this definitely comes off as a one of those girl-of-ultimate-power, oh-no-who-should-I-love? gushy YA stories that we’re all getting pretty tired of. The thing that kept me on board here was the fact that every time Alina got kissed… something went down. She had no time to really *enjoy* the sensation or be all gooey about it because something immediately more pressing required her attention – and she actually dealt with it. Yes! Thank you!
On a serious note – yes, we’ve more or less heard this story before. Good verses evil. How to handle power. It’s still a good story, though, and told in a refreshing enough way that yes, I want to know more.
Bardugo. Is. Wonderful. Her storytelling is simple enough that it leaves some things up to the imagination, but precise enough that you can see the Little Palace. She also makes a lot of choices that aren’t popular in YA literature right now, which makes her stand out as an author with confidence in her plot and characters rather than falling into too many cliche trends, which I really appreciate.
She does use some non-English terminology which may throw a reader not expecting it – like kefta, for example, but she always explains herself well and I feel as though these terms accent the storytelling rather than draw away from it.
Overall, I very much enjoyed the unexpected twists and turns in this story. I like Alina’s heart and look forward to seeing the next step of her adventure. The magic was interesting and smooth, and the dynamics between characters were interesting. There were many times I was ready to groan about a love triangle, but Bardugo used devices while simultaneously breaking cliches, which definitely gives her points in my book. I loved Shadow and Boneand will definitely be picking up Siege and Storm when I can.
My one complaint about this book (only fair) is I felt the pacing was really quick. There was a lot going on all at once and I felt I had only just got acquainted with the situation when it changed, or when the book was finished.
“The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest.”
Some of My Favorite Quotes
“When a fire burns, it uses up the wood. It devours it, leaving only ash. Grisha power doesn’t work that way…. Using our power makes us stronger. It feeds us instead of consuming us.”
“Welcome to court,” he said.
“I’m not sure I like it.”
“No one does,” he admitted. “But we all make a good show of it.”
“I did the graceful thing and stuck my tongue out at her….”
“I stayed awake for a long time, cold and miserable, gazing into the night. I knew he was out there, moving silently through the new grass, carrying the weight of the burden I had placed on him. I was sorry for it, but I was glad that it was done. I waited for him to return, but finally I fell asleep, alone beneath the stars.”
“The thought filled me with grief, grief for the dreams we’d shared, for the love I’d felt, for the hopeful girl I would never be again.”