Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published: Henry Holt, 2012
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Synopsis: 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.

Everyone in the book blogging community raves about this book and this series. I always approach things with this much hype with trepidation, I’m a glass half empty kind of girl. It definitely is the kind of book that I would enjoy: high fantasy, odious characters, and elements of Russian folklore and history. But despite my trepidation, the book was everything that I had hoped it would be and more.

When I was finished reading the only way to describe my feelings of this book is to compare it to a roller coaster. This book was up, and then it was down. It turned left, it turned right. It was fast, it was slow. It was full of unexpected twists, turns, and nonstop thrills. And just like all roller coasters it was extremely fun and when it was over, I wanted to go again (good thing there are two more books!)

My favorite part of the book was the characters. First and foremost there was Alina, our protagonist and narrator. When we first meet her she is a meek and not confident girl who thinks that she has been wrongly destined for not only her power but her position as savior. And while she did sometimes come off as whiny I did like her for her reluctance. She’s catapulted into this position and while I think deep down she wants to help she doesn’t have a hero complex at all and doesn’t even know what to do or how to do it. It’s this reluctance that makes her all the more realistic and likable. As she develops throughout the story I found myself rooting for her to grow and succeed. Next we have The Darkling, when we meet him he is the mysterious and charismatic leader of the magical Grisha and the second most powerful person in the country of Ravka. As Alina starts to spend time with and around him she is able to witness his incredible powers and develops a sort of romance with him. He is the kind of character that you know there is so much more going on under the surface. As the story develops my feelings for him changed more times than I can count. Just when I thought I had him figured out he did something completely different, and just when I thought of him as the villain of the story I ended up sympathizing with him. I wasn’t quite sure if he was doing the right things for the wrong reasons or the wrong things for the right reasons. He is clearly very dark, selfish, power-hungry, and conniving. He is like a politician with magical powers and I LOVED him. There were many more interesting and ominous secondary characters that made me feel like they knew so much more than they are letting on.

But that was the world of this story. It is a world full of secrets, mystery, and magic. Leigh Bardugo definitely showed instead of told about the world of Ravka and the Grisha and it caused me to want to know everything right away. The world was so interesting and unique but I felt like at times it was being built a little too slowly and it was sometimes frustrating. As the reader I felt like there were things being held back from me and while it succeeded in what I assume was its purpose of creating an ominous and mysterious story it was also maddening! I spent much of the book wondering and imagining what would happen next and where the story would end up going. It was the kind of book where I felt like every little statement and action was a clue as to where the story would develop and I was trying to piece these clues together to figure it all out, but as this is the first book of a trilogy it would make later books confusing or dull if they gave us all the information right away. The plot was a little slow at the beginning as the scene and characters but it didn’t wait very long to start with the action. When the action did pick up however it didn’t last very long. There would be a big battle or big reveal and a whole chunk of the book where nothing much would happen.

On the whole the book met and exceeded all my expectations. It was an interesting story with compelling characters and it took me on quite a ride. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and see how this series develops.

I give Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 9 out of 10 stars.

If you are one of the few people who seem to not have read this book yet then you definitely should, especially if you like epic fantasy, interesting and complex characters, and books with lots of mystery. If you have read Shadow and Bone, leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts and Happy Reading!


  1. I have been meaning to read this book too, because everyone loves it. I am glad that it met your expectations. :)

  2. I'm happy to know that you enjoyed this one more than I did, Cassi. Sure, it was good considering that it's a work from a debut author but overall, it was really meh IMO.

    I have two main issues with this one. The first was Alina which really irritated me to no end. And the second was the plot, I found it too simplistic for my taste. :( With High Fantasies, I always expect more... something that could rival that of Pullman's His Dark Materials or Marchetta's The Lumatere Chronicles.

    But anyhow, I am glad that you enjoyed it.

    Lovely review, Cassi! And yes, Darkling FOR THE WIN! He's so awesome and gods, I hope that he can still be redeemed despite of what he's done. :D