by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) Release date : June 5th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover
Add to: Goodreads
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.
*May contain a few spoilers. Read at your own risk*
Ya know, when I first opened this book and discovered the map, THEN a small glossary, I almost didn’t even bother. I loathe books with maps. And glossaries. But both? Oh boy, don’t get me started. I get it, it’s an epic fantasy. A whole new world constructed and we need a little guidance to understand. A place to turn back to just in case we forgot something. And you know what? This is why I don’t read epic fantasy. I had a horrible experience once and it has scarred me. But, since most of my friends on Goodreads gave it 4-5 stars and a lot of the people I follow raved about it- I thought “This must be good! I gotta read it!”
I’m always blow away by the creativity behind writing fantasy. Although I don’t read it often because most of the time I am extremely overwhelmed by it’s complexity, it is fun to put yourself in another world and learn about it’s history, political system and beauty. This world is complex and scary but was detailed simply and beautifully. Leigh Bardugo’s world building was fantastic. I was engrossed! It’s beautiful, delectable and scary and I loved it! The different Grisha and their powers were intriguing and wholly original. We learn about Ravka in a slow leisure pace that’s never boring. I was glad for that, because too much information at one time is seriously overwhelming. But at the same time, I was frustrated because I would forget who someone was (or rather what they were) and the Hierarchy of all the Grisha. So that glossary came in handy. (And no, the irony of that statement is not lost on me)
The plot- Well, I think it goes along with most typical epic fantasies. Countries/Worlds are at War, everyone is power hungry and doing everything possible to basically WIN. But in Shadow and Bone, the story is told from Alina’s POV, we don’t have the multitudes of POV’s and information on what’s going on EVERYWHERE. Which I liked because it was more character driven vs plot driven. I don’t recall any explanation WHY they were at War, it just seemed like because. There were a few twists and turns, one of them completely throwing me, so it isn’t completely predictable.
Alina. I liked her at first. I thought she was a great protagonist and the character traits she displayed were realistic due to her past (strong, brave) and she was funny. She’d had a hard life and as basically alone, except for her childhood best friend, Mal. I can’t really explain where things started to change for me but I just didn’t like her. She was constantly feeling sorry for herself because she didn’t fit in with the Grisha. Well, she didn’t before either so that isn’t anything new. She didn’t really try hard to use her powers and she gave up and sat on her butt waiting for her amplifier. Um, you’re told you’re gonna “save the world” girl, show some motivation. I understand she missed Mal and didn’t fit in, but wouldn’t that push you to be better? To try harder? Only after her little epiphany, did she even really try. And for someone who had the life she did, she was awfully trustworthy and gullible. My heart broke for her a little at the end though.
Her relationship with Mal was meh. I like the childhood-friends-become-lovers thing, but I also like to SEE their relationship develop. Alina had always had feelings for Mal but he didn’t “see” her until after months of being separated and after seeing her happy with someone else. I’m sure I’m the only one that feels this way: but that my friends, is called Jealously. It’s like seeing your friend with a brand new, shiny toy and you have to have it. Forget the fact that you didn’t want it before now, but ohhh now you gotta have it. He even said that he was surprised he missed her! Some friend! Yes, he risked his life for her. Went AWOL to find her. And it was sweet. I just thought everything he did was a little too late.
The Darkling. He’s powerful, complex and scary. I felt as betrayed as Alina because I was shaking my head with her saying, “NO. no no no.” But what would an epic fantasy be without some strong, sexy, power hungry villain wanting/trying to take over the world? I don’t believe he has feelings for Alina, per say, but it’s obvious to me he wants her and she stirs something up in him. I think there’s more to him than what we think we know, and I’m excited to know more.
Overall- I really liked it. It’s unique, captivating and just plain good. I will continue on with the series and I recommend it. 🙂
I have a confession. When I first read the “glossary” I had to do a double take. I thought it said “Geisha” No joke.