Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
My rating: 4 Stars
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.
"The problem with wanting," he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, "is that it makes us weak."
After seeing raving reviews about this book pop up all over GR, I finally felt peer pressured enough to read it. I must say, I was hooked. From the first page, I got sucked into the beautiful world that Bardugo creates, and I think that's what sets this novel apart from many. The world of the Grisha is mysterious and appropriately dark, with exotic tones that come from a lot of thorough research done on Russian customs and culture. It reminded me a bit of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which took place in the magical city of Prague.
Alina's world came alive with me in all the right ways, without the boring info dump that usually accompanies complicatedly woven universes. I found the concept of the Shadow Fold and the volcra interesting, as well as the privileged lives the Grisha lead apart from the rest of society. There are many small details that are included that wowed me. My favorite part in the story was when Alina's Tailor friend, Genya, gives her a makeover using rose petals and gold. I thought it was creative, and the idea very interesting.
While the conflict between light and dark is nothing new, nobody has written about it the way Bardugo does. The skills of the Grisha which set them apart from everyone else yet endanger them, and the threatening extinction of their kind, are fascinating, though not completely original.
One of my favorite aspects was the love interest(s). Usually, I root for the promiscuous bad boy (which is very bad of me, I know), and not the best friend. But this time, I found myself loving Mal for his determination and his obvious concern about Alina despite everything. The Darkling was too dark and edgy for me, I think; towards the end, he did seem truly evil. There's a difference between a sexy bad boy and someone who's an actual threat to my life. However, since 90% of my Goodreads friends are psychos, they'll probably ship him and Alina. Which I totally understand, because I'm a bit of a psycho myself.
My one real problem with this book is the characterization. The world of the Grisha is spellbinding, but the characters are average. Alina is a classic orphan turned savior of the world, Mal is her sweet childhood best friend, and The Darkling...actually, The Darkling's a bit confusing, and I'll see what happens. But the thing is, I never truly felt connected with them in their troubles, and despite the colorful world that Bardugo creates, I couldn't fall in love with the characters too.
That aside, Shadow and Bone is definitely something that should be read! And now I want a kefta. Preferably in black.
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