June 5, 2012

Review: Shadow and Bone

Book Cover Book One of the Grisha Trilogy
By Leigh Bardugo
Available now from Henry Holt (Macmillan)
Review copy

I'm never sure what to say about heavily hyped books.  I don't want to repeat what others have said, but it's hard not to when so many people are saying things.  I can say that there are times when I worried.  Of course Alina had special powers; she's the narrator of a fantasy novel.  Where did Mal go when he was so important in the first chapters?  Yes, yes, I like court intrigue, but everyone has the same goal so there isn't much use in scheming.

Fortunately, Leigh Bardugo has some twists up her sleeve.  And once SHADOW AND BONE gets twisty, it turns from a fun read into an irresistible one.

I have admitted several times on my Tumblr that I used to be obsessed with Russia.  Russian history, Russian art, Russian folktales, you name it.  Thus, SHADOW AND BONE had my goodwill from the first page, when I realized it was set in a fantastical version of Russia.  Alina and Mal are orphans being tested by the Grisha to determine whether they are Grisha.  Neither child shows evidence of magical talents and they grow up to enter the military.  Mal is a handsome tracker and Alina is an unaccomplished mapmaker.

Until they enter the Shadow Fold, that is.

The Fold is a darkness, filled with monsters, dividing the majority of the country from the ports.  Trade, particularly international trade, has suffered, and the country of Ravka is slowly perishing.  But Alina is the Sun Summoner, and with the help of the Darkling (the most powerful Grisha), she can destroy the fold and restore Ravka to his former glory.  She must survive assassins from afar and learn to use her power without being under great duress.

It's hard to say what makes SHADOW AND BONE so satisfying.  It uses typical elements, but executes them well.  Leigh Bardugo does have a lively voice.  I enjoyed crabby mentor Baghra's version of "There is no try."
"Pah!" she spat.  "Do you think the world cares if you do your best?  Do it again and do it right." (p. 186, ARC)
Or take how Alina and her friend Genya discuss the best way to seduce a geek:
"He'll come around.  He's just shy."

"Maybe I should lie down on a table in the workroom and wait to see if he welds something to me."

"I think that's the way most great love stories begin." (p. 190, ARC)
Best of all, SHADOW AND BONE builds to an actual climax.  I cannot tell you how tired I am of trilogies that begin with a book that can't standalone.  SHADOW AND BONE satisfies on its own merits, but I am eager to read the next book in the Grisha trilogy.  I can't wait to spend more time with these characters, in this world.


  1. Great review! This sounds like a really interesting book, and I think my sister would love it, so that's always good.

    Awesome it's a first book that can stand alone. I don't read a ton of series these days, but when reading the reviews, I hate to hear when the first book is all set up and not much substance.


    1. The all set up and no substance first book is my least favorite trend right now.

  2. When I finished this, I was left unsure if there would be a sequel or not because I felt so satisfied with the resolution (well, not entirely since Alina still has some battles to fight but enough to be content).

    1. Satisfying, with a few dangling threads: how the first book of a series should be. I hate that we're being trained to expect no resolution if there's a sequel.

  3. Sounds like my type of book! I can just tell Baghra's going to be one of my favourite characters. I've read other reviews that didn't quite convince me to read it, but now I'm promoting it to the top of Mt. TBR.

    1. Baghra is terrific. I love when books have prominent old ladies.

  4. It is so important that books in a series work on their own as well. And I know what you mean about not wanting to repeat what everyone else is saying.

  5. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is sure to satisfy readers of fantasy and paranormal young adult alike. The world building is unparalleled-by the time I finished reading the novel I was convinced that Ravka existed with all of it's intrigue and all it's inhabitants. The Russian flavor, the volcra hiding in the darkness of the Shadow Fold, the rival countries and court intrigue all meshed together to form an amazing backdrop for this story.


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