Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publish date: June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co
Source: ARC received from the publisher for review
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.
When Shadow and Bone surprised me by showing up on my doorstep, it took me all of 0.5 second flat to read the synopsis and become overwhelmed with excitement. FANTASY, said I. That is my ISH. And while the final cover ROCKS MY WORLD (just look at those onion dome, spire-y things! gorgeous), the ARC cover was nothing to scoff at either, which only built my excitement up further.
It is glorious when a final cover reflects what is INSIDE the books well. In this case, the cover works almost as an extension of Leigh Bardugo’s really excellent world-building. Onion domes (which, yes, I did have to google to find the term) are a staple of the architecture in Russia. And the realm of Ravka is heavily based upon Russia. And it is an INSPIRED choice. We get the roots of our world in the (again, Russian-inspired) language that is sprinkled throughout Shadow and Bone and it only grows from there. The world is different from your run-of-the-mill fantasy novel, but built convincingly.
Bardugo crafts her cast of supporting characters so cunningly it’s astonishing. Alina’s newfound friend Genya is a bit aloof and snarky, but as she seems to warm to Alina, I warmed to her. Little revelations are made that have me feeling pangs of sympathy toward the girl. And should we even get me started on the Darkling? For a great deal of Shadow and Bone, he had me all SA-WOONY.
Alina herself grows throughout Shadow and Bone out of a necessity. She has to cope with being thrown into the politics of her country, figuring out this new power of hers, and being torn away from her best friend (and swoon-feelings-giver) since childhood, Mal. Just when she’s almost adjusted– she’s moved on from Mal and she’s gotten a fairly good grasp of said power– the world as she knew it is torn asunder once more.
While still compelling, the pacing after that was rocky; the events that followed seemed very rushed to me. Alina is brave, undoubtedly, and makes some tough calls, but well… Mal stopped giving me swoony feelings for the most part. I felt far more I-wanna-smack-this-boy-upside-his-head feelings.
BUT I don’t want you to think that that detracts in a BIG way from the ending. The plot is still riveting and perfectly twisted into a bleak and hopeless ball of despair before the GRAND finale.
Overall rating: 4.5/5. A WIN for the fantasy genre. Both unique and compelling, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo should find a happy home on many bookshelves.