Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha (#1)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: 6-5-12
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
While this novel wasn’t perfect, I really enjoyed reading it and it was a good novel for a “fantasy beginner” like me. I wish there had been more world-building and more violence, but everything else about this book was amazing. I’m completely entranced by this world and am anxiously awaiting my reading of the next book in the series.
Going into this book, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have this thing that I do, where when I read books that are really popular, I purposefully won’t look at the back of the book or people’s book reviews before I do it. I guess that I just want to go into it with a clean slate, and little-to-no expectations.
Shadow and Bone was a strange read for me. I ended up reading this book all in one sitting…in the middle of the night while I couldn’t sleep, of course. But I’m not so sure that this was a good thing. I straight-up just devoured this book. I didn’t mean to get so involved, but all of a sudden, I couldn’t remove myself from the story for even one second. I got so caught up in this world that Leigh Bardugo has created for us…it is just so intriguing and dark and mysterious. I liked how my reading experience of this book almost directly mirrored the world and the story itself, and maybe that’s how the author meant for her readers to consume this work, but I’m not sure if maybe I would’ve thought different things about it had I had more time to decompress between chapters.
One bad thing that I do have to say about this book is that it lacked world-building. It almost worked…but not quite. It would have been forgivable if the whole Shadow Fold thing had been properly. I didn’t quite understand what it was, how it got there, or why it was so bad until I was more than halfway through the book. In a perfect world, they also would’ve explained more about the different regions, how the monarchy works, and the history behind why and how Grisha’s exist.
But part of me is almost kind of glad that we weren’t inundated with explanations of everything. While I’m very interested in reading more fantasy novels, I still consider myself a “fantasy beginner,” so I’m not sure that I would’ve liked it as much had the author given us a large amount of background information. Often, I have trouble digesting/remembering parts of novels if there is too much of that going on.
I think that I would have given it 5 stars had the novel not been geared towards the young adult audience. I’m a big fan of YA literature, but I felt that it was almost dumbed down in a way. There was virtually no violence (except for the horrific stag scene that I will never be able to un-see in my mind), even though a huge part of the plot is that Alina is some kind of paranormal warrior, and much of the book is spent on her extensive training sessions for physical combat. Not to mention that their world has been undergoing a gruesome war for 100 years. It felt like we were getting the “lite” version of this novel or something. I would’ve appreciated some more action, and maybe even a touch more gore.
Bardugo did do an amazing job with the romance aspect of this novel, though. I liked how realistic Alina’s emotions were throughout the novel. Even though she is this really important person who is training in order to eradicate the Shadow Fold, and she knows that she should be focusing on growing her power, there are times when all she wants to think about is how homesick she is for her best friend Mal, and fantasizing about what it would be like to be with the Darkling. Even though I didn’t necessarily love Alina’s character — she was a bit too whiny for me — I still think that she was very realistically portrayed.
I’m hoping that most of my complaints about this novel will be dealt with in the next books in the series…which I cannot wait to read.