Normally, when I hear about books that everyone is obsessed with, I tend to get excited but a little leery. I let my expectations get the best of me just to see them not met. That sucks. Lucky for me, Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo was able to hit those expectations.
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.
Bardugo is a master world creator. Ravka is brought to life so wonderfully and with so many details that slip into it effortlessly. History is wonderful so the fact that Bardugo modeled Ravka after Imperial Russia? Flawless, absolutely flawless. History buffs will appreciate comparing and contrasting the two. Okay, okay, that may just be a me thing because I definitely enjoyed it. She was able to mirror Imperial Russia just the right amount to impress me and help me to better visualize Ravka, yet not enough to where it lost the fantasy aspect.
I also enjoyed the flow and pace of the plot. There was action right from the start, which for me really helps to grab my attention and keeps me interested. Yet, it did slow down enough throughout that you didn’t feel like you were just jumping from one scene to the next (I absolutely hate when that happens). Don’t worry about getting bored though, there’s so much to the story that it will keep you turning page after page to see what happens next!
Alina. Where do I even begin? She’s the main protagonist but I felt her to be a bit of the cliché type that has permeated YA books, the really small and unattractive girl who has always been weak. Listen, I get that there are tons of small girls out there but come on man, YA has basically created an army of them by now. I understand that it’s supposed to be the weak and unassuming that rise to be the hero in the fairy tales and stories but it’s getting a little old now. Tiny? Check. Weak? Check. Orphan? Check. Self-confidence issues? Check. In love with her best friend? Check. Whiny? Check… Guys, I could keep going on with this and the list would just pile up. Do you see what I mean? Maybe this is just an issue that I have but I prefer my protagonists to be kicking ass and taking names. Let’s make her 6’3 with a mind as sharp as her longsword and her tongue just as deadly (and by that I mean her words not her actual tongue).
Her best friend and the love her life, Mal? He’s just blah. He brings nothing to the table to make me think, what a cool dude. Nothing, zip, nada. I’ll be honest, when he disappeared for a while, I was so glad and was hoping he would die in a hunting accident. There was just no depth there. He was the same person throughout the whole book, selfish with his head stuck up his butt.
Oh, Darkling, what would I have done without you? This was a character I could love. In the immortal words of Shrek, “Darklings are like onions. Onions have layers, Darklings have layers!” Okay, maybe he didn’t say it exactly like that but close enough that it still fits in this situation. The Darkling was such a great character. He was vicious, calculating, mysterious, insane, and oozed sex appeal. Girls, you’ll love him. He’s that character that you absolutely love to hate and can’t get enough of. The best scenes in the book were the ones with him. Easily.
Writing style, plot, and world building was incredible for this story. Bardugo did a fantastic job of creating a story that drew you in and took you to a completely fantastic world. I mean, there’s a reason I finished this book in just two days, it was great. However, I do think that there were a lack of interesting and likable characters, for me at least. I never felt connected to Alina. There was something about her relationship with Mal that just kept me from rooting for them to be together, as well. For me, I was more interested in The Darkling and secondary characters such as Genya. But all in all, that didn’t bother me enough to keep me from finishing this book and I highly encourage for those of you who haven’t read this to try it out for yourselves!
Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars