Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Posted April 2, 2014 by Jessica in Fantasy, Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 80 Comments

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
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
Pages: 416
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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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.

*bats eyelashes*

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.

Jessica Signature

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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80 responses to “Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  1. Evidently I have read (listened) to this but didn’t write a review or even rate it. I am going to have to listen to it again because I am not sure what I thought about it. I vaguely remember parts (including the blast of light) but I can’t remember my overall feels. This is why I have started making myself rate each one LOL I can’t remember what the heck I thought about specific books 🙂

    • The same thing happens to me all the time. I’ve actually started (re)reading a book before, and then halfway through it, I’ll be like . . . wait a second . . . this all feels VERY familiar, LOL. I’m trying to at least rate all the books I read too, for the same reason 😉

  2. I remember loving this read but for some reason never opened book two. I have it, just waiting for me. Maybe now that book three will be out I will start it again. 😉

  3. I enjoyed this one too! I downloaded the next 2 audiobooks right after I listened to this one, but other books got on its way..LOL I really liked the little heroine in this book 🙂 This reminds me, I need to finish the review, and listen to the following books ASAP. The narration was excellent here!
    Thanks Jessica, good job!

    • I’m glad you liked it! I’ll have to add the narrator to my list of narrators to try. I had to drive to my sister’s last weekend, and listened to an audio book for the trip, and I LIKED it! So I see many more in my future 😉

  4. Hehe! Wonderful review! This has been on my list forever too (and *ashamedly* I’ve yet to read it, but someday definitely). I agree I’m not too bothered by love triangles, especially if I don’t have to wait years until the resolution, but I’m skeptical about all things that reference or are set in Russia. But then again, I’ve heard nothing but great things about this series. 😀

    • The Russia thing is just a quirk of the author’s, I think. It’s fantasy, so it takes place in a make-believe world . . . that just happens to be similar to Russia . . . hmmm. Well, like I said, it’s done in a way that didn’t bother me and Russian anything isn’t my bag. I really liked it, and I hope you check it out some time b/c it was a lot of strange and weird and wonderful 🙂

  5. YAY JESSICA!!!!! I’m so glad you loved this one too! Normally the love triangle setup would have had me squirming in my seat wondering how long I was going to have to suffer through before a romantic decision was made. BUT. Not with this book. Like you said, this is a good love triangle, one that keeps the story interesting because all the characters are so layered. I can’t wait to see what you think of Siege and Storm!

  6. Well I’ll admit that I was actually turned off by this cover too. It just doesn’t call to me at all – but I AM a huge fan of YA Fantasy, and I love my romance. I don’t like love triangles so much, but if done right, I can overlook them. I mean many of my favorite books have had them – it’s just that as a trope it gets overdone and too often, done badly. Great review – guess it’s time for me to get past that cover and check this series out!

    • Yep. WEIRD cover. BUT really excellent story, and I don’t feel like the relationship aspect is an overdone troupe at all. I hope you’re able to push past the creep-factor like I was. It really is worth it (IMO).

  7. I am joining the group who hates the cover, I really will not pick it up based on that. I love fantasy romance, so I don’t care that this is YA. Is it really? Or are they grown up now?

    • I think they fall into the “grown up” category. I can’t remember if Alina is 16 (or 17, or 18), but she’s old enough to be supporting herself, and to me that equals adult. And I hope you can at some point look past the lame cover b/c it really is an excellent story. I go back and forth between this one and Throne of Glass trying to decide what my #1 favorite YA fantasy is right now.

    • I’m SOOOOO jealous!!! And I always find it to be encouraging when I meet an author in real life and like them. ESPECIALLY if they’re funny—funny, likable people have to be capable of writing good books, right?

    • I promise that this isn’t the standard triangle. It’s more out of sight, out of mind, but when the RIGHT one shows back up, everything is as it should be. And also, by the end, there is no doubt who the bad guy is . . . I think you’d like it. Plus, like I said, last book out in June, so not much of a wait for resolution 😉

  8. I heard so many great things about this book and I’m ashamed to say that I still need to read it. I’m glad you loved it that much too, it sounds so intriguing and I’m curious to discover Aline. You’re right, a good love triangle doesn’t bother me, it makes the story really interesting sometimes.

    • I completely agree. I hate triangles when they’re a devious and/or manipulative, but a little good ol’ competition never hurt anyone IMO 😉 I hope you get the chance to discover this one, Melliane. I think you’d like it!

  9. I’m so ashamed to say that this book is sitting on my shelf for a year now! I haven’t read it yet and I even have the sequel as well. I’m really ashamed of myself. I’m so happy you enjoyed it though and I cannot wait to discover it. Amazing review, Jessica 🙂

    • Thanks, Tanja! I hope you discover it soon 😉 And don’t be ashamed, LOL. I can’t begin to count the books I’ve had sitting on my shelves for years . . . books that I know I’d like if I could find the time to read them—so many good books, so little time 😉

  10. This was a wonderful book! I can’t believe it took me so long to get to it, but when I did I was glad — it reminds me of why I read YA. Can’t wait for Ruin and Rising.

    • Exactly—this book (and others like it) are the reason I still read YA. As long as it has little or nothing to do with high school, I’ve got a fair shot of liking it, and that happens most often with fantasy and post-apocalypse. I’m glad you liked it, I also cannot wait for Ruin and Rising.

  11. Sounds like a great read…ugh but more love triangles?! LOL I don’t hate all love triangles but I feel that YA books tend to spotlight these a bit too much for my tastes. Guess it’s all those raging hormones…haha I like the creepy factor to the story so I might just take a chance on it, thanks for the fab review Jessica!

    • Lori, this book is so severely creepy, that I’m a little amazed I liked it, LOL. I typically do NOT go for creepy, but something about the way Bardugo writes the creepy—it’s absolutely enthralling. BONUS, this is also one of the series that posts the novellas for free, and the prequel to this book might just be the most deliciously creepy story I’ve ever read in my whole life. It’s very short, only 10(ish) pages I think, and you can find it here:

      Just in cases you are interested 😉

      ALSO—this isn’t a standard triangle. It’s more about a missed chance, and the ensuing flirtation with someone new, but then The One shows back up and everything is as it should be.

  12. Believe it or not, my dad is a big YA reader nowadays. I think he enjoys the world building and the asexual silliness of these teens. I should recommend this book to him, make it our mini book club read.

    • That would be so much fun! I used to do the same thing with my grandmother. She’s read and loved Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I’ve tried to get her to read some of the newer YA fantasies too, but I think her dementia might be progressing past the point where anything new can really stick. I’ll have to talk to her doctor about it. Who knows? Maybe it would even help!

  13. Christy

    Wow, yeah, I know a lot of people were all over this book when it came out, but I was super hesitant. To be honest, I still am. But damn, it sounds like a book I can NOT pass up. Fantastic review!

    • Thanks, Christy! And yeah, if I hadn’t seen it on whatever Big Deal (it was something like NPR’s Top Summer Reads for YA, etc.) list, I would have totally passed on it too. Russian-themed, creepy . . . SO not my thing. But I’m so glad I read it. I got back and forth between it and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass for my #1 spot in YA right now.

  14. LOL. Yeah, the Mother Russia vibe did make it seem…dark. And possibly very depressingly Russian. But it WASN’T. SO. GOOD. Also, for the record, I do hate love triangles but didn’t consider this one after the second book. Darkling? Nah.

    • My sentiments exactly—Darkling, shmarkling. He puts the “creep” in “creeper” in book 2 *shudder* BUT a certain ginger pirate did make me still view the whole thing as a triangle. If youknowwho hadn’t been acting like such an adolescent, I don’t think Ginger Pirate would have been enough to make me consider anyone else. But youknowwho WAS behaving terribly, so I was FORCED to consider Ginger Pirate. And now I don’t know what I want . . . (but I LOVE that too) 😉

  15. Ahhh! So glad you finally read this! I had a feeling you’d like this one Jessica! 😀 I agree…this is definitely an awesome read! And yes – I completely agree with you –> “I loved Mal and the Darkling b/c they were Mal and the Darkling.” 😉 I didn’t enjoy the sequel quite as much, but I’m really interested in seeing what you think of it as I seem to be in the minority.

    Thanks so much for sharing Jessica, and, as always, brilliant review! 😀

    • Oh, Zoe! Thank you, and I wish I had known you were waiting for me to read this one b/c I could have put you out of your misery ages ago. I’d say that roughly half of the reviews I’ve posted so far are rereads, LOL. I’m completely OCD when it comes to things like . . . reviewing Cress before reviewing Cinder and Scarlet (even though I’ve read them both before). So that’s what I’ve been doing with Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and Throne of Glass, etc—playing catch-up.

      So I’ll go ahead and tell you right now that I didn’t like Siege and Storm as much either (but I did still like it, I was just frustrated). I thought boy 1 was in the clear with boy 2 being the obvious bad guy, but NOPE—we get boy 3 instead and boy 1 behaving badly. Sigh. AND that cliffy was something else, wasn’t it? I’m as scared as I am eager to see what Ruin and Rising brings 😉

    • Glad to hear it, Jessica! I doubt there are many people who hate Russian lit as much as I do (Anna Karenina might be the only Russian novel I’ve read in its entirety, but I have read bits and pieces of many others), so if I could still like it, it gives me hope for you too 😉

  16. So glad you enjoyed it, Jessica. Shadow and Bone was such an amazing read, and one of the reasons I wanted to start a book blog. To talk about amazing books like it. The unique world, magic, and characters were all so well done. The love triangle is one that just keeps your heart thumping, who ill it be?! Great review 🙂

    • Thanks! And I completely agree. It was books like this (and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass, and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, etc.) that made me what to start reviewing in earnest too. There are just so many wonderful parts to these books that I had a burning desire to share with others who hadn’t read them yet, or talk about with people who HAD read and also loved them. Basically, I get you, LOL.

  17. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!! I was kind of worried, because I’m not the best at epic fantasy (I usually get lost!) and while I still don’t really “get” The Fold or anything, the rest was absolutely amazing. Mind blowing. Gosh, I LOVED Alina, and the Darkling? He’s very creepy and interesting. I can’t wait to start the next one. x)

  18. Faye M.  

    Haha! Same here! Triangles that are well-done, well-written with good build-up and character development can be entertaining, and I agree with liking it here. Leigh Bardugo totally crafted a good story in this one, although there were times the MC pissed me off. When are you reading the next book? I’ve yet to read it so maybe we can read it at the same time :))

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

    • YES! Maybe two(ish) weeks from now? In any case, I’ll try to give you a few days notice for when I’m thinking about starting it. (I requested an arc of Ruin and Rising, but if I don’t get it, I might wait until closer to the release date . . . )

  19. I’ve had Shadow and Bone on my TBR since forever, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it. Do you think I should? 😛 I wish I would win the lottery, so I could buy an island somewhere tropical, have a very fast internet connection, and read under palm-trees during the lazy days I’d spend…
    Great review, Jessica, I might push it up on my list, after all.

    • If you like dark, high fantasy, then YES. Absolutely you should move it up your list. But I totally understand about prioritizing. There are TONS of contemporary and historical romances that I want to read, but right now, I’m all about the supernatural and fantastic elements.

      And let’s go halfsies on that island 😉 Maybe we’ll get there sooner.

  20. Okay, you convinced me! This one is going on my wish list and my to read soon list. As a matter of fact I am going right now to grab it so I don’t forget. Great review and awesome peer pressure! 🙂

  21. I still have yet to read this which surprises me because I love fantasy books and I really love books with romance in them. I believe people are not being true to books and life when they say they hate having romance in their books. Everything in life has some relationship/friendship/romance in it. People make connections in life and to ignore that is almost impossible.

    Great review!

  22. Michele

    Oh, my stars! Where do I begin? I’ve had this one waiting impatiently on my shelf for a while for the very reasons you address here. NOW I’m super excited to get to it! And hello? So glad to find someone else who appreciates a good love triangle! Honestly, you had me at creepy. Thank you for the brilliant review!

  23. I love your reviews.. I really do! You bring such personality to your posts and I always end up having a giggle 🙂 Great review and I really cannot wait to read this series. i might just wait until they are all released though. So much to read.. So little time!

    Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

  24. I totally put off reading this one for awhile, too–I had the egalley forever, but it wasn’t until a couple of months after I bought the hardback at ALA that year that I read it. Read it in one sitting, finishing at like 4 am, and then cursing myself for not reading it sooner! I really liked this one, and then SIEGE AND STORM was even better. *sigh* STURMHOND. I cannot wait until he and I rendezvous again.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Yes! Sturmhond was quite yummy. But as marvelous a character as he was (I mean how can you really beat a prince/pirate?), and as big of a baby as Mal was, I’m still holding out hope for Alina and Mal. I’m such a sucker for friend-to-more-than-friends. Especially if it’s LIFELONG friends. *crosses fingers*

    • It’s definitely one that bridges the age gaps! I loved it. I got it for my 15+ years younger sister, and she loved it. Actually, I don’t know a single lover-of-YA-fantasy that didn’t really like this book 😉