Series: The Shadow and Bone trilogy #1
Publication date : June 5th, 2012
Publisher : Henry Holt & Co | Macmillan
Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 369
Synopsis : 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. (From Goodreads)
I’m probably the millionth person to say (or do) this, but I really wasn’t planning on reading this series, especially after reading Six of Crows and everyone telling me that reading this one afterwards will make it disappointing. But then King of Scars happened and I threw all of that out to the wind and decided to read The Shadow and Bone trilogy to be able to fully understand and grasp the characters and events in that one. I went in with very low expectations so I wasn’t really disappointed BUT I do agree that this is a lot weaker than Six of Crows.
The writing style is gorgeous, it feels like Leigh Bardugo’s through and through which I really appreciated, because it made the book feel really familiar even though I knew basically nothing about it. That being said the prose is less polished than in her latter books which is… a good thing when you think about it as it shows how much she’s grown as a characters while never losing her *signature* style and just making it better. I’m sorry that this review is full of comparisons, but I can’t help it, I can’t separate the two especially since they’re set in the same world. The writing is still amazing though.
I enjoyed the story a lot, no matter what was happening between the page of the book, I never felt bored or uninterested in what was happening, the book kept me wanting to read and to come back to it when I put it down. That being said, it felt like a lot was happening but nothing was happening at the same times, like things were taking a long while to happen but then when I looked back I realized, that event wise, there are only a few that are stretched out through the whole book, which made Shadow and Bone, and more specifically the first two thirds, feel very much like a setting book, an introduction to the world, where the events of book two and three will take place.
But baring that in mind…the world-building is extremely weak. I didn’t have a problem with it because I was already geared with my knowledge of everything from Six of Crows so this one only filled the gaps about Shadow and Bone’s specific events and as well as somewhat detailed the Grisha and their practice of what they call the little science, that being said, it still left me with a lot of questions as to how they work, especially with the nuances in people’s abilities, and how some have rarer abilities that don’t seem to fit with none of the different groups (corporalki, etherealki and materialki).
Also, a world-building this that threw me off and that always trips me up in high fantasy books, is the mention of churches and Sunday services but without ever referencing Christianity as a religion? Or any other equivalent? It felt like an anomaly in a world where the religion is never mentioned, referenced or even hinted to.
The characters are there but don’t have much depth which isn’t a huge offense in this context, let me explain why. The narration is very much introspective, Alina, our main character is inside her head, thinking a lot about her feelings, her power, her strengths and weakness, and the progress she’s making or not making. In addition to that, she’s in circumstances where her interactions with people can be quite limited either by external factors (not saying what because… spoilers) or by herself because she doesn’t want other to see her as an impostor when she can’t deliver the power expected of her. I am genuinely confused as to how people got invested in either Mal or The Darkling in this book, because to me there wasn’t enough of either.
Alina as a main character is very hard to care for. She’s dull and forgettable to be blunt, and even though we spend a lot of time inside her head, I feel like we don’t get to know much of her, so even though I don’t actively dislike her, I don’t have any strong feelings for her. That being said I really enjoyed seeing her come into her powers, how she struggled with them for long before being able to get a hang of them, but to me that switch between not accessing them and then finally accessing them was very sudden and the reason behind it very flimsy and weak. She only grew into herself and started making decisions for herself instead of being stirred by whoever at the end of the book, so I think I might change my mind about her character in the next book.
I still haven’t formed an opinion about Mal, since like I said, there wasn’t much to see. The Darkling though, is setting up to be a brilliant villain. I love me villains who justify their acts and think they are in the right, so much that they start messing with you head, and this is what the Darkling is shaping up to be and I cannot wait to read more of him. He’s so righteous and set in his ways, that he has it all twisted in his mind and truly thinks his actions are not only for selfish reasons, but that those selfish reasons are somehow for the greater good. The one character I actually loved from the get go is Genya, she’s just been such a good friend and support system to Alina, and she deserves better than how she’s treated.
On a side note, I wanted to bring up that this series is said to butcher Russian culture and language but this is something I have no clue about and cannot speak on, so I’d recommend checking out reviews from people belonging to said culture.
I know this sounds like a negative review overall, but I actually really enjoyed Shadow and Bone despite it all and I’m really curious and looking forward to continuing on with the series.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Shadow and Bone? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.