Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Company
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.
Hi, my name is Chri. I run a book blog called Aerou, obsess over tiny details, and read books fifty thousand years behind everyone else.
I had a pretty hard time rating Shadow and Bone, actually, because I actually enjoyed Shadow and Bone quite a bit, but my read wasn’t without reservations. It actually came as a bit of a surprise, because a lot of people I know had bones to pick with the plot, the characters, or both. And in all honesty, I wasn’t too wowed by the plot. It’s nothing terribly new – it’s a little on the predictable side, even. But I really enjoyed the way the author crafted and wrote the story and the way her main characters seemed to lift off the pages. Shadow and Bone was interesting and engaging in Leigh Bardugo’s words, with just enough mystery and intrigue to keep you flipping the pages. The story feels dark and cold and strange and a little desperate. I finished this one in one sitting.
And the characters! I loved the complexity to Alina’s character – how she wasn’t exactly strong but wasn’t exactly weak, as well as the struggle that brought on, especially as the plot thickened.
I wasn’t a fan of Mal at all at the beginning of the novel. He was denser than you’d think was possible and couldn’t read the atmosphere for shit, and it really made me wonder why Alina even bothered sticking around. On the other hand, I was super on board with The Darkling – my shounen manga character tastes are seeping into YA lit too (oops), and I like those dark, raw characters with redemption arcs. Which I thought was going to be the case in Shadow and Bone. Heck, it kind of happened? Kind of? Before everything did a complete 180 and I’m reminded of why I tend to wait until a series has been completely published, or until a series has at least half of its books on the shelves before I start reading.
Because I actually ended up liking Mal a lot! His character in the later half of the book is sweet and selfless and brave. You can definitely see the author setting up the relationship between him and Alina to be the endgame, and honestly, I don’t mind. He definitely improved with the story, but conversely, I ended up liking The Darkling less than I did at the start? It’s mainly what the story did to him – if you’re going to make a character a villain, make him a villain. He doesn’t have to be unapologetically a villain, but I feel like it would be so much stronger if he was unapologetically written in. Since the author’s planning on dropping the bomb like that, make it benefitting of his character! I felt like everything was revealed too early on and too half-heartedly, adding to the whole manipulative, did-it-for-the-gasps kind of feeling that isn’t all too pleasant to experience as a reader. In the process, he ended up losing a lot of that build up and characterization, which is a shame because he’s really quite an interesting character, regardless of where he actually stands.
The much-quoted “Fine… make me your villain” line, though! I knew it was coming, and it still had that shot-through-the-heart effect… Damn.
My favorite character by far was Genya, though. Where the rest of the story felt a little well-worn, and a little predictable at times, Genya was a breath of fresh air. I love what she brought to Shadow and Bone in terms of her voice, her character, her relationship with the other characters, her backstory… just, her. She added a kind of depth to the court and Alina’s post-summoner confusion that would’ve made the story rather bland otherwise, I think. I’d definitely read an entire book on Genya. She’s really, really cute, and I hope she gets her happy ending.
Though the plot could be rather typical at times, the characters and the writing really upped that sense of emotional attachment and sent the pages flying. And though I wasn’t entirely blown away enough to feel an overwhelming sense of urgency in picking up the sequel, I’ve added Seige and Storm to my TBR list, and I’m definitely looking to get started on that soon.