Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars
FROM THE BACK COVER:
Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.
Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.
As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.
Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.
Y’all. This book. THIS BOOK. Shadow and Bone is the first book I’ve read by Leigh Bardugo, and goodness gracious. THIS is what a fantasy novel should read like. I started it at 10pm, thinking I’d read for a few minutes in bed like usual before getting too sleepy. NOPE. I finished this whole thing in 4 hours and stayed up until 2 in the morning, because it was so dang good that I couldn’t stop reading. I devoured this book.
So, what did I like? Pretty much everything. Told from the 1st person perspective of Alina, a grunt soldier who discovers (along with the rest of the country) that she has magical powers in a moment of extreme danger, the voice was perfect. Description was just enough that I could picture everything in my head without being so intense that I skimmed through it to get back to the story. Alina was level-headed (for the most part) and authentic. So were the other characters, especially the Darkling, who is the dark counterpart to Alina’s light. He was kept just mysterious enough throughout the first 3/4 of the book that I didn’t know where Bardugo was taking his character, but I’ll keep it spoiler-free and just say that his character development was very well done as well. Their conversation was fluid and believable, especially between Alina and her childhood friend, Mal. I LOVED their relationship with one another and cannot wait to see where their relationship goes.
(Brief aside – can we quit having male characters just kiss female protagonists out of nowhere without getting their consent first? I’m all about a spontaneous kiss, but not when two characters are practically strangers! But anyways…)
The world Bardugo built is fully fleshed out, and I pretty much understood everything I needed to about the Grishas (although some of their titles still had me pausing to remember what their power was) and the world they lived in. The pacing was perfect. Nothing felt rushed. And it wrapped up nicely enough before the sequel that I wasn’t flinging my book across the room in frustration when I finished it. I WILL be getting the next two books ASAP.
Anyways, if you’re a fan of epic young adult fantasy books akin to Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series or Court series, you’ll love this. It’s also significantly less graphic than some of the other YA fantasy novels I’ve read lately, both in gore and sexuality. (Some of Maas’s scenes straight up make me blush and fast forward through them.) I’d be okay recommending this book to a teenager without fretting about explicit content.
In the end, 5 out of 5 stars to SHADOW AND BONE! I can’t wait to read the next one!