Review: Shadow And Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow And Bone 
Author: Leigh Bardugo 
Series: The Grisha #1 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: June 5, 2012 
Rating: ★★★★ 

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.

There's nothing wrong with being a lizard. Unless you were born to be a hawk.

It was probably a mistake to read Six Of Crows before reading The Grisha trilogy. I inevitably ended up comparing the series to that masterpiece and it didn’t work out in Grisha’s favour. Not because this was bad, but because it just wasn’t as good. Somehow something was missing, although I can’t really put my finger on what exactly.

The kingdom Ravka has been torn in two by The Shadow Fold, a piece of land clouded in darkness and evil. Crossing is a gamble with your life at stake. And yet people do. So does Aline, a soldier girl/ map-maker on her way to the other side of the Fold. When they get attacked and her best friend Mal's life is about to get taken, she somehow manages to save them all. She doesn't know how she did this or just how strong she is, but she soon becomes a beacon of hope to her people. She is Grisha. And she needs to be trained if she wants to help fighting the darkness. 

The world building was neat. I had not expected anything less. This is the same world of Six Of Crows. A world at war, set in an alternate Russia. Humans and Grisha living and fighting alongside each other and trying to make the best of a rotten situation even though they’d much rather have nothing to do with one another. Everything is carefully crafted, there is a magical atmosphere to be felt on the pages that goes beyond what is actually written. I like this world. The differences between Grisha, the hierarchy, the way their power works. I could read about this endlessly.

The story itself was good enough, but I can’t help but feel it could have been more. It’s pretty straightforward and I think it could have benefited from more subplots. Maybe those are coming in the next installments, I don’t know - but with her talent, I think Leigh Bardugo could have crafted something more complex. Or maybe I’m just putting way too much pressure on her and my expectations are insane. This is her first book after all. Told you I shouldn’t have read SOC first.

Same can be said about the characters. I liked Alina, the main character, but I felt like she was mostly just another young adult heroine. There wasn’t anything that made her really special or made her stand out. Maybe it’s not fair of me to say this. I mean, she was relatable and brave and powerful and loyal etc. But it never got any more than that. I wasn’t indifferent towards her, I still rooted for her - but on a more superficial level. Based on this book - I’m pretty much going to forget about her soon. Same for her friend Mal. He was a really great guy, but he never made my heart beat faster and that’s just a real shame. And in complete contrast to the characters of Six Of Crows

The problem with wanting, is that it makes us weak.

The only character I found truly intriguing is that of the Darkling. Which can hardly come as a surprise because I am a pathetically predictable fool when it comes to these kind of characters. Dark? Check! Mysterious? Check! Attractive? Check! Powerful beyond words? Check! Twisted? Check! Walking the border between good and evil? Check! I mean, there was no way I was not going to fall for him. He was easily the best part of the story. As of now, I’m still a bit unsure whether he is actually a bad guy or a good guy in a very good disguise. He definitely surprised me. And even if he’s truly evil - we all know I’m going to love him nonetheless. I can’t help it. It’s in my nature

I hope you don't expect fairness from me, Alina. It isn't one of my specialties.

So overall I really enjoyed this book, but I feel like it has to step it up a notch. There is room for improvement. It is good, but it could have been great. All the ingredients were here, but it didn’t blow my mind the way I thought it would. And I realize that maybe that’s the main problem. That my expectations were just completely out of reach. I’m really curious about the next books, though! Maybe everything I’m saying here doesn’t apply to the next one at all. I have hope.

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