Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Published on: June 5 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.
A few years ago, YA Fantasy was suddenly swamped with brand new series from brand new authors. REALLY good brand new series from brand new authors. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo was the second of that batch that I read, and I hadn’t really wanted to. The cover was weirdly creepy and looked to be inspired by Mother Russia. The only Russian anything I had ever read was Anna Karenina, and let me tell you—NOT a fan: “My life sucks, so I think I’ll throw myself under a train.” NOPE. Not my thing. So even though it was listed as YA Fantasy (one of my favorite genres), I blew it off. I didn’t need it. I still had one more book from Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series coming, and Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson was off to an excellent start. I bite my thumb at you, Shadow and Bone . . .
*rolls eyes at self*
Then I saw it included in one of those Big Deal lists of Top Summer Reads. And I am a HUGE sucker for those lists, so I decided to read it after all.
And surprisingly, even though it was a reluctant edition to my summer reading list, I read it almost immediately. And I LOVED it. Love, LOVE, L-O-V-E-D it. Yeah, I tripped over some of the Russian-esque words in the beginning, but it didn’t take long to acclimate. And it was obvious from the start that this was my type of story. I know (though I don’t understand it) that there are tons-o-readers out there who don’t like romance in their YA Fantasy (or Science Fiction) books. If you are one of those, then this is not the book for you, but you should already know that based on the blurb:
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.
Not much room for misinterpretation, is there? And it was fairly clear that this was going to be a friends-to-more-than-friends story and those are the BEST. Until the Darkling showed up . . .
Yes, ladies and ladies, here there be love triangles.
Doesn’t bother me. I actually like a good love triangle. Keeps things interesting IMO. But for those of you who hate love triangles, read it anyway b/c the last book comes out in June, so you don’t have to wait very long to get your resolution.
Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev are orphans.
They were raised together under the condescension of an ex-military, war-hero Duke who set up one of his residences as an orphanage. They were taught to read and write, and upon coming of age, they both joined the military—Alina as a mapmaker, and Mal as a tracker. They were all each other had growing up, and while they were still dear friends, Mal grew into a robust and handsome young man, who enjoyed flirting with, and chasing after pretty girls, while Alina stayed thin and sickly, and thought only of him<——it HURTS.
They were both part of a group selected to cross the Shadow Fold, a desert-like area of the land covered in impenetrable darkness, and filled with loathsome creatures, to . . . come to think of it, I’m not really sure why they were crossing the Fold. Seems kind of silly to confront that kind of danger for some animal furs and new maps. Though there was a permanent military base in front of the Fold, so probably these trips occurred semi-regularly.
Anyway, they were meant to cross in sand skiffs, powered and defended by Grisha (human wielders of the elements), but not long after they entered the darkness, they were attacked by an unusually large pack of volcra (hideous, flying, man-eating beasts). Death was eminent when a blast of light forced the volcra into retreat, and saved their lives.
Can you guess where the blast of light came from? Hmm?? Can you, can you?
Well, I’m not telling. *winks*
Suffice it to say, that was only the beginning of the deftly created layers-within-layers story of Alina, Mal, and the Darkling (not to mention countless, wonderful secondary characters). The only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read for me was that the thwarting of the bad guy was a bit too deus ex machina for my tastes. Yes, there was foreshadowing that all was not as it seemed, but there were too many conflicts. If the solution was really the solution, then it seems to me that someone should have never been able to do what they did in the first place. Make sense?
But ultimately Shadow and Bone was a fantastic read. I loved watching Alina blossom into what she had always been meant to be. I loved the agony of going back and forth between Mal and the Darkling, trying to decide who Alina should choose. I loved Mal and the Darkling b/c they were Mal and the Darkling. And I loved all of these things, and so many more, within Bardugo’s expertly crafted world of Ravka (not to be confused with Russia). If you’re a fan of YA Fantasy, and dark and creepy things, then Shadow and Bone should be at the top of your reading list. With the final chapter of this trilogy being released in June, there is absolutely no reason to delay.