Title: Shadow and Bone
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.
This is a book that I have heard a lot about either on BookTube or other books blogs, since its release in 2013. Then books two and three were released and there was more and more buzz about the trilogy. However, I still did not read any of them! I was not reluctant in anyway to read these books. In fact, from what I knew about them, they were right up my alley. I just never got round to reading them, probably due to my already suffocating TBR list (now I just read whatever I like).
I was immediately struck by the wonderful setting in which the book takes place. It is not secret that Leigh based Ravka off of Tsarist Russia. I liked this, especially after reading an interview she did about the book. In the interview, she said that she was inspired by the contrast of Russia’s beauty and its brutal history. I loved this. As well as a reader, I am some what a history buff. Nothing extreme, I just find it interesting. Having read the book, I would say that she captured this not only accurately, but perfectly and beautifully. Leigh also mentioned how she wanted to stray away from the conventional medieval fantasy setting, which I think she did in creating Ravka. You really get the sense of a divided country in Shadow and Bone. For example, when Alina is being transported to the Little Palace, she passes through a run down courtyard and then is suddenly thrown into a world of gold and well made keftas.
Anyway, enough about the setting. Now on to the main character, Alina Starkov. Going against unpopular opinion (emphasis on opinion, guys), I half expect the main female character of a YA fantasy or dystopian novel to be really annoying. And when I say annoying I mean like whining a lot or making awful decisions, like Clary Fray. Don’t get me wrong, I am the biggest fan of TMI, but come on Clary! Anyway, I’m now going of on a tangent; back to Shadow and Bone. Alina was not annoying in anyway. She wasn’t vain, indignant or any of that bad stuff. She was probably one of the most natural and human character I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Take a leaf out of Alina’s book. Alina’s book would be called ‘How To Be The Chosen One and Not Screw Everything Up All The Time’.
One of the things I didn’t like was the sudden ease in which Alina gained control of her powers. I felt as if the process she went through should have been more of a struggle, because, as a character, she would have been all the better for it.
The Darkling is genuinely one of the most despicable villains I have ever encountered while reading YA, or in general to be honest. He is the horrible mix of charming and evil to the core. Also, the plot twists that surround him in this book are almost jaw dropping. The only thing that got me is that when watching BookTube videos on this book, I encountered comments saying that at first people trusted the Darkling. Firstly, his name literally has the word dark in it. They is a pretty big clue he is bad news. And he dresses in black. Usually when a character dresses in black, they are either a badass warrior or they’re evil. I guess Leigh’s writing is just so good that it managed to fool them.
Lastly, the romance between Mal and Alina towards the end of the book gave me life. This was especially after they had their argument back at the Little Palace. I was left shouting “No!” at the pages, begging him myself to come back to her and embrace her or whatever. Thankfully, we got that in the end. After finishing the book, I felt that I would be perfectly happy if it was a stand alone. Everything was relatively okay and there were very few unanswered questions that really caught my attention. Unfortunately, I have to read the next books, where I have no doubt the sense of uncertainty will return. Fortunately, I get to delve back into Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant writing.
4.5/5 stars for ‘Shadow and Bone’ by Leigh Bardugo.