Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two.
Rating: 8 out of 10
First Impressions: Another dystopian-esque fantasy drama. You should read it if you like the Graceling series, the Seraphina series, and the like.
Favorite Quote: “Well, if it gets too bad, give me a signal, and I’ll get up on the banquet table, toss my skirt over my head, and do a little dance. That way no one will be looking at you.”
What part of yourself would you sacrifice to truly belong?
That is the question that heroine Alina Starkov must answer in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone.
Admittedly, I was reluctant to read this book. I had just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth, which is so incomprehensibly good that the prospect of Shadow and Bone as a follow-up sort of depressed me. I thought it was going to be just another cheesy fantasy by an author who tried too hard, when she really shouldn’t have. You all know the kind of book I’m talking about?
Shadow and Bone was not that book. It was an incredibly original take on the classic medieval fantasy shceme. For one, instead of hinting at European themes, Bardugo chose to research Russia. She looked at Russian power systems and military and language to create a uniquely Grisha world. I found the Russian aspects intriguing, though I know some people find them ill-researched and a bit mediocre.
When Alina discovers that she is a Grisha, or a person with extraordinary powers, the Darkling (the most powerful Grisha) whisks her away from her ordinary life as a cartographer in the army and he whisks her away from the only family she has ever known, her best friend Mal, who, consequently, she is in love with.
As Alina acclimates to her new life as a Grisha, she finds herself struggling to fully realize her powers and to loosen her grip on Mal and the life she left behind. But the Darkling’s charms disintegrate her insecurities and she lets her guard down, perhaps a bit too willingly.
What I like most about this book is Bardugo’s literal interpretation of the exhausted light versus dark metaphor. For instance, Alina is a Sun Summoner, which is as it sounds. She has the power to exude sunlight and warmth, whereas the Darkling can create devouring darkness. Alina has to face both him and the Shadow Fold, which is a vast expanse of complete darkness that destroys any living thing within its grasp. It is also the Darkling’s creation. By making light and dark actual, fathomable players in this story, Bardugo creates an adventure that stands alone among modern YA titles.
This is a book about an underdog, born into impossible consequences who is given the opportunity to rise above them. It is brimming with action and magic, friendship and romance. And while I like this book very much (I finished it in just under two days), there was something about it that stopped me from getting too emotionally attached. Like, when I finished Graceling and The Hunger Games, etc. I cried for like 3 weeks each, which is ridiculous, but also speaks to the emotional depth of each novel. I’m not going to have that hard a time moving on from Shadow and Bone. That said, it was still a great book that I highly recommend (and sometimes, it can be a relief to not mind the end of a book so much).
BONUS! It’s being adapted into a movie! Keep your eyes peeled.