Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leah Bardugo

5 Jul

Book cover for Shadow and Bone by Leah BardugoTitle: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leah Bardugo

Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1

Genre: Fantasy YA

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

Release date: June 5, 2012

Challenge: Debut Author Challenge, YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

Source: NetGalley

Summary: 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.

Guys, if you been around these parts even only once, you know that I LOVE me some excellent fantasy. There’s not much I geek out over more than a well-built, well-told fantasy world, hopefully made eve more awesome by the presence of a map. What you might also know from hanging around here is that I have a MASSIVE geek soft spot for Russian history. Seriously. It’s pretty huge. So when I heard that Leah Bardugo‘s debut, SHADOW AND BONE, the first book in The Grisha Trilogy, was basically Russian fantasy, I DIED. How could a book like that be anything but wonderful? And you know what? It was pretty much as awesome as I had hoped.

The world-building in SHADOW AND BONE was particularly excellent. From the first hint of the way magic appears in this world–when young orphan Alina and her best friend, Mal, are tested for magical abilities in the prologue–to the way magic plays a huge role not only in the story but in the world of Ravka itself, I was never disappointed in it. You know how sometimes you can get a sense of a certain element in a book being wedged into the story like someone trying to wear the wrong size shoe? Leah Bardugo didn’t have any of that awkwardness in the incorporation of the Grisha’s gifts. It was smooth, guys, and clever.

SPEAKING of smooth, how ’bout that Darkling! So, a little background: The Grisha are the name given to the people of Ravka who have gifts. It’s basically a magical ability to do something extraordinarily well that normal people can’t. Some Grisha can manipulate the elements, others excel at metal working or design. Runs the gamut. The Darkling is the leader of the Grisha, and a fearsome but charismatic man who can create darkness. The Shadow Fold–the slice of land completely devoid of light and crawling with flesh-eating beasties–is rumored to be he creation of a previous Darkling. Guys, I can totally understand why Alina had the feelings for him. He has the magnetism of an undisputed leader. But, you know, his name is appropriate to his gifts, his temperament, and…well…other spoilery things. The way things end up with him and Alina in SHADOW AND BONE is kind of devastating, but not all that surprising if you pay attention.

Thankfully, Alina has her childhood friend Mal to lean on. Friends, I liked Alina. She sometimes seemed a little naive perhaps? She was a tough cookie, though, who often found herself on the outside of things looking in. So when she joins the Grisha, it’s a lot for her to swallow. But she always has hopes that she will be reunited with Mal after the attack on their unit in the Shadow Fold. I really enjoyed the parts with Alina and Mal. Like, A LOT. There’s a little triangle between Alina, the Darkling, and Mal, but I’m pretty much Team Mal right now. The Darkling–he’s going to break my heart again and again, I just know it. You’ll love them both, though.

One of the things that I loved about SHADOW AND BONE is that I felt like a cycle of this story was completed by the time we reach the end. There’s more to tell, certainly, and I’m in it to win it with this series from Leah Bardugo. But guys. The ending of SHADOW AND BONE has DRAMA and ass-kicking and is basically awesome.

I can’t tell you guys enough how much I appreciated the totally unique vibe and setting of SHADOW AND BONE. I loved the Russian-inspired world, I thought the Grisha and the magic was handled really well, and the characters and their relationships were legit, too. I can’t wait for more of this series!

7 Responses to “Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leah Bardugo”

  1. megtao July 5, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    I really loved that this story had a complete~ kind of ending. Bardugo had the chance to be a real meanie to her readers with that ending, and I really appreciate an author who can convince me to read the next book not by a cliffhanger but by the sheer awesomeness of their story and writing.

  2. Brittany July 5, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Gahh I still can’t wait to read this 🙂

  3. Lisa July 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    WHY haven’t I read this yet?!?

  4. rubybastille July 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    This one sounds awesome! I keep mixing it up with “Night Circus,” though, possibly because the covers are slightly similar. Derp.

    You know how sometimes you can get a sense of a certain element in a book being wedged into the story like someone trying to wear the wrong size shoe?
    Totally had this in “The Red Scarf” by Kate Furnivall. On the surface it was a really good, horrifyingly realistic story about a woman escaping from a brutal Soviet labor camp…only then there were gypsies and prophecies and mind control, for some reason. Really didn’t like it.

  5. Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) July 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    I glazed over this one because I haven’t read it yet? Why haven’t I read it yet? Because I’m coming off of a month of contemporaries. Aaahhh, I’m rusty with my favorites. Getting back in the saddle with the good stuff, good stuff such as books like this. My quick glance looks like you liked it.

  6. Alexa Loves Books (@alexalovesbooks) July 7, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    I’m so excited to read this book! It sounds absolutely FANTASTIC. I share the same soft spot for Russian history, so this book is definitely appealing 🙂

  7. April C (@booksandwine) July 7, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Team Mal foreva and always! At least for now. And yo, maps and Russia and magic? MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN y’all.

    I love that you love Shadow And Bone. 😀

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