Review: Shadow and Bone
Title: Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Year Published: 2012
Format: Paperback (personal copy)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Favorite Character: The Darkling
Memorable Quote: And there’s nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be a hawk” (Baghra).
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Synopsis: The country of Ravka is split in two by the Shadow Fold, created by the Black Heretic many years ago. Now, the once-great country is surrounded by its enemies, while a realm of darkness full of horrible monsters keeps it separated. There is little hope for Ravkans, as there is no one strong enough to destroy the darkness.
Alina Starkov is an orphan and a mapmaker for Ravka’s army. She is easily forgotten by her peers until she is revealed to be the Sun Summoner when she saves her best friend Mal from being killed while crossing the Shadow Fold with the rest of the army. Alina is taken to court to train to be a powerful grisha, next to the powerful and terrifying Darkling. Alina’s power may be Ravka’s only hope at peace.
However, the power Alina has is worth a great deal to many people, and she will have to determine who really wants her to succeed and who is using her for what she can do. She is no longer ignored or forgotten by anyone – for better or worse.
Review: When I first read this book a few years ago, I couldn’t stand Alina. I’m not sure what changed from 2012, but I feel a lot more sympathy and empathy toward her. However, I’m still not overly fond of Mal. Why? I’m not really sure. Nothing about him really stands out. He seems like another YA love interest.
Initially when weak, sickly Alina is announced to be the mighty, powerful Sun Summoner:
But she has a way of growing on you. I appreciated how Alina learned to be more independent, even though it seemed she was often putting what others said as The Truth 24/7.
While it can be frustrating, it’s also important to remember that Alina has never really been able to think for herself. She has always been told what to do and what to think by the orphanage, the army, etc. She isn’t the rebellious, headstrong character that is often portrayed in YA. Alina is quite literally just trying not to die.
Bardugo’s writing is very engaging, fast-paced, and easy to follow, despite the complex world building. When you break the story down, it’s another fantasy about an orphan with special powers. The writing is memorable, unlike many other stories, and the characters and their conflicts are interesting – especially The Darkling. I know I should hate him for just about everything, but I’m always drawn to him.
Basically me in every Darkling scene:
Fine. Make me your villain.
I think it’s the amount of internal conflict that really makes this book amazing. War is an impending issue for Ravka and its people, but each of the characters is filled to the brim with different kinds of conflict. The internal struggle of Alina, Baghra, Genya, and everyone else is really interesting because you catch yourself wondering what you would do in their situation. This book proves that it’s easy to say that you would do one thing (take the moral high road, be just and fair,etc.), but end up doing the opposite out of fear or pressure.
There are many read-alikes to Shadow and Bone but this story stands out, despite not being the first of its kind. Vivid descriptions, heart-wrenching quotes, and intense action scenes will easily leave you wanting more.
I can’t wait to keep reading the series…for the second time.