Shadow & Bone
By Leigh Bardugo
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.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.
For the longest time, I had reservations about the Grisha Trilogy. I was afraid that the hype around the books might not live up to the books or the writing. It took me almost, what? Two years to pick them up finally? Yeah, I am late to the party and I don’t really mind it.
I had almost forgotten about the books if I am being honest. I mean, these books were on my TBR for sure, but I wasn’t dying to read them. It sounds so bad when I say it like that but it’s the truth. I finally took the chance to read the books, I bought the e-books of the whole trilogy because what if I loved them? And had to buy them later? Yeah, I am absolutely that person, the person who buys books like people buy groceries (what if I need it later? We have all been down the useless aisle, let’s be honest.)
I had deliberately not read anything related to the books because I feel sometimes (most times) I am terribly influenced by other people’s reviews and no matter what I try, the results aren’t always fair. So, I had stayed away from the reviews in general or anything too spoilery. I am glad for it because I got to enjoy the books for what they were supposed to be.
Now, onto the things I loved about the book, seeing as this was the first in the trilogy, it had a lot to cover in terms of world-building, character building and just decent plot writing and Leigh Bardugo managed to do that wonderfully. I did have a few problems with the world-building but that’s almost ok because the characters made up for it. The main character, Alina, seemed like your typical YA girl with a destiny and I wasn’t too big a fan of that, if I am being honest. However, her relationships with other characters and her interactions in general made it easy enough to understand the plot and the world as I read on.
I loved the Darkling, to the surprise of nobody. However, I always thought that there was something fishy about him and I was proven right. There always is something fishy about those dark, handsome lads who feel too good to be true. Mal is written almost poorly in this book, the way we are introduced to him when he is grown up is through Alina’s eyes and maybe that wasn’t the best way to show him, if I am being honest. The whole push and pull of the three of them was cliched but at the same time, it wasn’t hurting me.
Alina’s fascination with the beauty and grace of the Grisha sometimes bothered me, I am not quite certain why? It might have something to do with the fact that the Grisha are capable of making themselves look far prettier and they do that to their benefit but because of this, the whole Grisha thing almost became a bit much for me, if I am being honest. Like, they are pretty, they are rich, they are powerful and they get to live in a freaking palace as well? As good as the royal family? You can see why I might have had problems with that. It made the whole book into a very typical YA book and then I realised that it was supposed to be a YA book.
Now, onto the gritty parts of the book. I loved Leigh Bardugo’s writing, sure, it showed that this was the debut novel or maybe the first few of her books ( I am a new fan and don’t know much yet.) but there was such promise in the writing itself. I carried on reading simply because of her way of writing and showing us things in her world. Then, sometime during the reading of the book, I started to like Alina and was genuinely invested in what happened next. The Darkling’s characterisation was brilliantly done as well, I mean I was wary of him but at the same time, I also wanted to be wrong about him? I have read tons of people complaining about Mal and his relationship with Alina and I don’t really agree with them?
The thing is, in the first book, Mal isn’t presented as a proper main character. Sure, in Alina’s life, he’s one of the most important people but we don’t really know him in the first book and that makes it hard for me to dislike him? Overall, if there hadn’t been any love triangle, the story would have worked just as well, in my personal opinion. Alina was seduced by the Darkling’s power and overall charm, and Mal would have been the steady friend that he’s been all her life. Who knows? It’s almost hard to remember that Alina is a very young woman in the novel, considering the things that happen to her.
Overall, I loved the first book and it made me want to read the next one as soon as possible. Which I did. I read the trilogy within a span of four days? I think? Yeah. I am pretty bad with control when it comes to books. There’s nothing terribly bad about the book, the characters are interesting, the world building is pretty good and the plot makes it easy to stay in the imaginary world of Ravka. It is immersive and once you get into it, it’s really awesome. If a book makes you read more and more then it’s a pretty good book in my opinion.
I would recommend it to all the people who love to read fantasy, YA and just…books, really.