January 21, 2013

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) 
Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Page Count: 358
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: ★★★★☆
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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

I really don't know how I didn't know about and read this book sooner because I loved it and I want more of it right now. Right now. Remind me: why is waiting a thing?

Let's break this down:

I think my favorite thing about this book is that it doesn't waste any time. The reader gets a little backstory at the beginning - just enough to situate a girl - and then you walk right into the Fold with Alina and Mal and things just START HAPPENING. And these things that happen? They're pretty amazing. That is to say, the plot is pretty amazing. I mean, warring countries, magic, orphans, romance... please, I will take more of that, thank you very much. The whole book is just so tragic and thrilling and makes me all of those feels that keep me coming back to books for more. 

Now, after discussing all of the plot love, I think it's worth mentioning that high fantasy is my favorite because of the amont of creativity it requires from the author. You have to build every since element of the the universe, map the whole thing out, know everything about it and only then can you write a story about it. What's really interesting about Leigh Bardugo is that she chooses to create this whole society based on Russian culture. This structure is highly imaginative and exciting and I LOVE it. 

Or rather, I love the idea of it, but I don't love how iffy some of the name/miscellaneous other choices are. I'm not Russian nor do I pretend to even know very much about Russian culture (therefore these inconsistencies didn't bother me TOO much), but if you're gonna incorporate a culture that much, things should be a little more put together. As in, there are some male/female last name troubles and a couple of other name/terms used that don't quite make sense in the scheme of the book. But like I said, I'm not personally offended, I only know it's a thing because I have a friend who speaks Russian and when I told her the protagonists name, she asked me if I meant Alina Starkova, not Alina Starkov, which led to some confusion followed by me learning a little Russian grammar.

My other somewhat small irritation with this story is how things go down at the end. I didn't quite buy how Alina saves the day. I really enjoy all of her self-realization throughout the whole book (stellar character development, really), but I'm not sure I totally understand how she pulled off that ending. It TOTALLY made sense earlier in the book when Alina finally figures out what's up with her Grisha powers, but it didn't really make sense at the end. Although, much respect to Leigh Bardugo for writing an ending that I didn't totally accept and yet somehow still love oh so very much. I mean, I'm pretty sure I would have either been really mad or totally lost if it the book ended ANY OTHER WAY.

I suppose I should now talk about the characters. There isn't a single one I don't love. I'm obviously all about Mal but HI THE DARKLING. LET'S BE FRIENDS. Or maybe not because you're a little cray and I'm not sure how I feel about that. But either way, I looooove. And then there's Alina. She's really such a brilliant protagonist. Even at the beginning when she was all frail and blah I loved her and then she transforms into this amazing, luminous being (sorry, I live for puns) who makes such a wonderful heroine while still be entirely relatable. I just can't get enough. And Mal. I'm really just going to leave it at "and Mal" and expect you all to just get it.

So. I've already mentioned how much I love Leigh Bardugo's mad story-telling skillz, the amazingly intricate plot of this story and ALL of the characters. But there are two things about this book I LOVE that I haven't gotten to yet:

1. THE PLOT TWIST, THE PLOT TWIST. Please. Guys. Ugh. I didn't see that coming even for one second.

2. The obvious and yet somehow MASTERFUL way this book juxtaposes good (light/The Sun Summoner) and evil (dark/The Fold) in a new, inventive, exciting way that isn't in any way stupid or derivative. The whole book is (among other things) an intelligent conversation of the balance between good and evil and all that wonderful deep stuff that I LOVE.

The long and short of it?

Brilliant. Seriously. I could gush about it, but I already have.
World Building: Wonderfully lush, if maybe not totally fact-checked.
Character Development: Everyone in this book really, serves a purpose, grows into their own and is entirely likable in their own way. Which is pretty impressive.
Prose: Pretty magical, just like the story.
Would I Recommend This Book?: I took this one out of the library and then later bought it. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU?

Did some of the Russian/that ending bother you as well? Or was it all amazingness for you like the rest of the book was for me? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. EEP. You are making me SO excited to start this one! I've had it for a while, but never gotten around to reading it. Looks like I may have to change that...

    1. I hope you have read this in the last month. IF NOT: GET ON THAT. It's phenom. I'm still thinking about it. I can't wait for the next one!

  2. I LOVE this book, and I'm so glad you've read it and liked it also! Regarding your little worldbuilding quibbles, I went to a panel where Leigh Bardugo was speaking (I KNOW, so lucky) and she said she purposefully deviated from strict Russian culture in some areas (such as with the names) to give the impression this was NOT Russia, but a place of her own invention. The Russian-esque words she chose are not all necessarily truly Russian, but Russian-esque. Bardugo most certainly did her fact-checking. None of these elements bothered me, but I can see why they might have thrown you a little.

    But YES. THE DARKLING. Come to be, oh sexy, crazy, dangerous one. *swoon*

    1. Y'know, I figured that was likely the case, I was just a little thrown because she seemed to be sticking so closely with a lot of things but not with a couple of bits and bobs. I honestly didn't bother me beyond being slightly intellectually confused for a hot second. My main issue was with Alina's power surge at the end. Everything else about the book was totally flawless though.

      BTW: You can totes have The Darkling. But do me a favor and distract Alina for a min so I can grab Mal and run off with him, kay? ;)

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing the panel news. I tried googling to see if there was some kind of explanation but I couldn't find anything so this was very helpful!

  3. Okay, so...I know this is an old post but whatever.

    I was on Judith's blog and was skimming through her blog roll. That's how I found yours. Then your top post recommended I read your Seraphina review. I loved Seraphina so I thought, 'ah, let's see how she rated it and whether we have similar tastes' AND YOU LOVED IT. But even more than that, high fantasy is your fave genre!! AND EVEN MORE THAN THAT...TAMORA PIERCE...ALANNA!!!! YESSSSSS!

    Contemporary books are so popular these days that most bloggers are following those most closely. Which is great, cause I love contemporary books! But fantasy will forever be my fave and now I have discovered you and your tastes I shall follow you close.

    You're stuck with me! Sorry!

    1. Dammit. I had your Seraphina review and this one open on different tabs,
      (LOVED THIS BOOK TOO BTW)...and I posted on the wrong one. Oops.


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