Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
Published June 5th, 2012
Goodreads: See here
Plot at a Glance:
Book 1 of the Grisha Trilogy, Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina Starkov, a young cartographer for the nation of Ravka’s armed forces. Ravka is at war, fighting an uphill battle against the deadly Shadow Fold; a swath of darkness teeming with blood-thirsty beasts. While Alina’s role in the battle against the Fold begins as a small one, she quickly finds herself at the center of events when a dormant power inside herself is revealed.
Carried away from the life she has always known, Alina is brought before the royal court to be trained as a Grisha, the magical elite led by the charismatic and mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in Ravka is quite as it appears on the surface, and Alina must learn to shine a light on secrets hidden in very dark places if she hopes to survive.
Leigh Bardugo, you’ve done it again!
Six of Crows captured my heart when I read it back at the end of January, yet this book took any established expectations I had and blew them out of the water! I know it’s kind of a weird opinion, but I ended up enjoying this slightly more than SoC. I do think this is entirely my fault, as I’m now convinced that I should have read this series first! If you’re wondering where to start, do yourself a favor and start here.
There is so much worldbuilding in this book that give a lot of events and characters in SoC context that I struggled to figure out for myself when I was reading that book. While SoC definitely feels more ambitious than this one in terms of the scope of the story, this book became more compelling for me personally because of the way the world is introduced, the characters and plotting.
The setting and magic system are both crazy good here. This is the perfect introduction to Ravka, and to the way the whole Grisha society works. Alina is such a great foil for the audience to experience the world through. As she becomes acquainted with things outside her realm of understanding, so too does the reader. It’s not confusing or over simplified either, it’s just casually injected into nearly every moment of the story; it all serves a purpose. Plus, I loved the gorgeous Russian vibes in this book, just as much as I did in SoC.
Speaking of Alina, can I just take this moment to point out how much I liked her? I really enjoyed that while she was powerful and those powers were very necessary to the plot, Leigh Bardugo makes the conscious choice to have those powers be entirely passive. She can’t cause harm with them, and can’t defend herself from harm, and yet she’s pivitol to events because of them. It allowed for the suspense to ramp up quite nicely, having a magically imbibed character in YA not be a total mary sue for once.
As great as Alina was, the Darkling was 10x better and definitely my favorite character in the story. This is a character with depth, who believes in his motivations fully and with conviction. I understood him, and related to him and in some strange ways even rooted for him. Also, as I said to Chelsea during our buddy read, it definitely felt like the Darkling was written with a heavy sexual subtext. It’s never erotic, and in fact I think many teens would completely miss it, but it’s present in every conversation he has with Alina and it makes this series a joy to read now, as an adult.
Lastly, the plotting itself is phenomenal. This is a real hero’s journey from start to finish. I was glad that Bardugo didn’t spend an outrageous amount of time showing us Alina’s training. Rather, she skips ahead in order to really get to the good stuff. It allowed Alina to do her natural growth in power off-screen, without boring the readers, which I appreciated. One pet peeve I have with a lot of YA stories pertaining to magic is that they get bogged down in trying to prove their character isn’t a Mary Sue by making them suffer and stink at training for the entire book, neglecting the plot. That isn’t the case here, as Bardugo briefly has Alina stuggle, but quickly moves her on so she can stuggle with actual plot points, rather than mindnumbing training.
I’m so excited to see where the story goes next! Onwards to book 2!
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 = 5 stars out of 5, and a new favorite for me!
Have you read this? How did you feel about this series? Do you like it more or less than Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom?