Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
“Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.” -Goodreads
[[NOTE: a few spoilers]]
Oftentimes I go to the library, pick up a pretty or cool looking book, check it out, take it home, set it on my nightstand, leave it there for weeks until it is overdue, and then return the book. Thankfully I did not get as far as that last step when it came to Shadow and Bone. This book was amazing. I’ve read quite a few YA fantasy novels and because of this I am typically unimpressed when the new ones come to me due to similar themes. (Hence “Red Queen” only getting four stars from me.) While all YA fantasy faces similar characteristics, this novel was uniquely original to me. The idea of this horrifying ‘fold’ dividing a country that is weakened by war combined with unique beings with supernatural powers, the grisha, kept me from putting the book down.
I initially picked this book up because of my tendency to just books by their covers. The boldness of the cover with a striking accent cover stood out to me. It suggested a world unknown surrounded by some dark force, which turns out to be true.
While our protagonist Alina Starkov does have a rags-to-riches story, it is turned upside down with the rags she had being more valuable than the riches she gains, if that makes any sense. She is a character who is used to being weak and alone, but who overcomes this when she lets her true nature take hold. Not only do her Grisha powers make her stronger, but her courage and honor make her shine. I appreciate that the heroine has character flaws, she doubts herself constantly and she trusts too easily. These flaws create a more human and relatable protagonist.
Throughout the novel I was hoping that our antagonist was truly good, but sadly I was disappointed. He is a well-defined villain who has lived much too long and hurt way too many people. I feel as if he honestly did develop a tendre for Alina, but his greed and deception ultimately pushed her away. I seem to always get my hopes up when it comes to evil doers, I hope they can change, and rarely am I granted that wish.
Overall the novel is five stars. I had no complaints at all. I loved the characters, I felt their grief and disgust, and the new setting makes it stand out. Also it was interesting to pick out the Russian influence in some of the words.
Featured image is the map from the book Shadow and Bone.