Book: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Original Release Date: 5th June 2012
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Blurb: 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.
My Overall Thoughts:
This books was so much better than I expected! I was worried that because I was coming off my favourite book of the year so far it would affect my reading of this one and I just wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I think that is what was happening in the first few chapters of this book, I couldn’t quite get into it like I wanted to. But I had a break away from it for a few days to distract myself and try and get over my previous book hangover and when I came back to it I was completely absorbed.
Although there are some tropes that are very recognisable to avid YA readers (like the dreaded love triangle), Bardugo puts her own spin on them that makes me not mind them so much in this book. I normally try and avoid books with ‘the chosen one’, a love triangle or the typical mean girl, but for some reason I still decided to pick this book up even though I knew all of these would be in there and I’m so glad I did. Because the rest of the world and the plot is so unique and like nothing I have ever read before, these common tropes I have grown to hate become something completely new again. I didn’t feel like I was reading another overly typical YA fantasy novel and I loved it for that!
Despite having seen so much about this series on the blogosphere I still went in relatively blind. I knew some of the key words and that there was a love triangle but that’s pretty much it. And I’m so glad I did that instead of looking further into it because the plot and that characters in this book were full of surprises, and not knowing the main plot line made those surprises so much more enjoyable!
Thoughts on Characters:
When I first started reading this I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Alina, I’m not sure why but I just didn’t think I would connect with her but luckily that changed as the book went on. As her unreliable situation unveiled she some how became more relatable. I think it was her situation with Mal and the Darkling that made me like her more, a lot of girls will know the feeling of moving on from a boy who you didn’t have a relationship with in the first place, and a lot of girls will know the feeling of being used by someone (although I don’t think it will be in the same circumstances as Alina). She developed so much as a character as well, growing with confidence as the plot moved on, which is something I can definitely relate to! I loved her relationships with the other characters, how she didn’t care what status people were, if she wanted to talk to them she would, but she also wanted desperately to fit in and feel like she belonged (another thing everyone can relate to). How strong she became towards the end of the novel in her beliefs and her actions was also amazing to see, and although I wasn’t a big fan of hers at the beginning, I found myself rooting for her from there on out.
I like Mal. But I can’t say much more about him. We don’t get to learn a lot about him in this book, and although he does develop as a character, we don’t see it happening, we just hear about it. I think I like the idea of Mal more than I like him as a character, because in real like Mal sounds like the exact guy I would go for; tall, funny, and typically good looking. But I don’t think we see enough of him as a character to really connect with him or will Alina to ‘choose’ him. I’m really hoping we get to know Mal more as a character in the next book of the trilogy, because like I said, I love the idea of Mal but want to love him as a character to.
I loved the mystery of the Darkling, you never know what personality he’s going to show next, whether it’s the dark and brooding leader or the kind and caring mentor. I can’t quite pinpoint my feelings towards him yet because of all the different sides of him we saw, and just when you’re getting used to one side of him something happens to completely change your opinion on him. But that’s one of the things I liked about him, that you never knew what you were going to get next from him and you were always on edge whenever he was in the story. In a way he’s the opposite of Mal, I felt like I should know Mal but I didn’t know him enough whereas with the Darkling I knew I wasn’t supposed to know him completely and I liked him because of that.
Thoughts on Plot:
I went into this book pretty blind and I’m glad I did that. I had read a few reviews about this series, most of which were mixed, but I tried to avoid ones that mentioned a lot about the plot as I didn’t want to spoil it for myself. The blurb and goodreads synopsis don’t give a lot away and I think that’s so good for this book, because I went into it expecting a typical love triangle with magic. But it was nothing like that, yes there was a small love triangle and there was a lot of magic, but they weren’t the main focuses on of the plot so I was pleasantly surprised with the journey the book was taking and the plot twists had even more impact because of it. So for that reason, I’m not going to put a lot about the plot, all you need to know is it’s good. Well done Leigh Bardugo for coming up with that plot because I really enjoyed it, I loved the twists and turns and the unexpected loop-de-loops, but for you to really appreciate them you need to read this series for yourself.
The first half of the novel did feel a little like mean girls with a magic system, and although that wasn’t particularly what I expected when I started reading this, I did enjoy that aspect of it. It made the Alina feel more real because she was put into what felt like a school environment and had to go through a lot of feelings, emotions and situations there that I feel a lot of people can relate to. Was it the most action-paced, riveting part of the novel? No. But it still had be turning the pages because I wanted to see her relationships with the other characters grow, and I wanted to know how she was dealing with these all too similar situations in a not-so similar world and that’s one of the things that I think makes this book great.
I hate love triangles. As soon as I see the smallest sign of one in a blurb or synopsis then that book is going straight back down. But for some reason, despite knowing this book had a love triangle in it, I still read it anyway and I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed it. I think it was because it was different to the normal types of love triangles you see where she’s stuck between the two guys at the exact same time and is stringing one along and can’t make up her mind and blah de blah de blah! But this was nothing like that, and I think that’s why I enjoyed it, I don’t want to spoil too much for people so I won’t say a lot, but this love triangle was lacking the typical things we’ve all come to expect with a love triangle and that’s what makes it work so well. I’m hoping it stays with the originality it has set in this book in the rest of the trilogy because that was one of the things that really struck me and made me love this book even more.
Thoughts on Writing:
I really enjoyed the pacing for this book, although the beginning did feel a little slow I really enjoyed the prologue chapter looking into Alina and Mal’s childhood, it gave you a real sense of their friendship before we’d even met them properly. After Alina’s powers were revealed the pacing picked up to where I couldn’t stop flipping pages, and it didn’t feel too fast. Before I’d even realise it I had been reading for the whole day and read over half the book.
I really enjoyed Bardugo’s writing style and world building, despite not knowing a lot about Russian history or culture (all I really remember from studying it at school is Rasputin) but it didn’t feel like it mattered. If you do know more about Russia then you can probably appreciate it a lot more than I could but I still really enjoyed the magical world Bardugo built. The rankings were a little confusing, and the magical system was as well, but there was a little chart at the front of my book which helped a lot and after a bit of flipping back and forth you understood it enough not to just keep reading.
This was just really easy to read, and I enjoyed Bardugo’s writing style a lot. Although some parts of the magical system were a little bit complicated it made the system all the more realistic, because we all know governments like the make things a little complicated.
Recommend This Too:
Anyone who enjoys a great magic system, good world building and an absorbing plot. This book is perfect for YA fantasy readers who like a little romance in their books, and even if you’re not huge love lover then you can still enjoy this novel as it isn’t overpowering. If anything the romance enhances the plot in my opinion, so don’t let that scare you away! I feel this could be a good book for contemporary lovers who are looking to broaden their reading and want to venture into new genres.
What did you think of Shadow and Bone? Did you love it or hate it? Maybe you haven’t read it and I’ve convinced you it needs to be added to your TBR pile immediately! (Although the cover alone should do that) Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!