Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Summary: 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.
I loved this book. I didn’t think I would. But the story had me from the moment I opened the first page. I finished it in a matter of hours. But I did still have problems with this book, as much as I liked it.
Annoyingly, Bardugo tends to rely on cliche’s probably more than she should. She doesn’t need to, she’s a brilliant writer with a lot to offer and a lot of skill. Yet, like many writers in the young adult scene, she’s caught by many cliches. Whether it’s to make her writing well loved by her audience or simply bowing to peer pressure, i’m not sure.
Perhaps the most annoying cliche she uses in this book, is the age old love-triangle trope. I’m so sick of love triangles. They stopped being entertaining after the age of 17. Unfortunately, a lot of Bardugo’s audience obviously still fall within that age bracket, or haven’t yet come to hate it, because she panders to them beyond belief. The story didn’t need a love triangle. It would have been much better if certain characters stayed a platonic relationship; the love of a friend is just as motivating as romantic love.
Other than my few issues, I really enjoyed this book. Loosely inspired by Russian Folklore, it was refreshing to have a different flavour than usual to a book that falls under the fantasy/Young Adult bracket. The story also follows the traditional Cinderella story line. I don’t mind this if it’s used well- it is by Bardugo- and a lot of current Young Adults feel like they are falling back on this narrative style (Red Queen, the Selection, and countless more. You only need to read the blurbs of most Young Adult new releases or Popular books).
It’s an easy book to read and loose yourself in; I was so caught up in Ravka that the book flew by before my eyes. The world is rich and quite complex and one that feels like it could have existed- if magic and monsters did. As far as most books go, Ravka had an intriguing government system with interesting social dynamics.
Alina, however, was a fairly bland character, but benefited from some excellent character building scenes. I’m very interested to see where Bardugo takes Alina and how she develops her in the rest of the series.
This book has a heck tonne of hype surrounding it, and rightly so. This book works hard to earn your attention in a flooded market. Most times, I have problems with hyped up books, but this one feels like that it is worth all the attention it has gotten over the last year or so. From what I’ve heard, the best book in this series is the spin off set in the same world; Six of Crows. I’m definitely keen to read that one.
It’s one of those books that is hard to talk about without spoiling key plot points and it’s probably the reason I’ve taken so long to review it.
Read: International Paperback