For my first book review of 2021, I find it kind of fitting that it’s Shadow and Bone with the anticipation of the Netflix series coming out this April. Which is exactly why I decided to go ahead and pick up this trilogy.
CW/TW: Violence, Death, Gun Violence, Assault, Torture (mention), Rape (mention), Abuse, Animal Death, War Themes, Murder, Toxic Relationship
Synopsis (via 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.
“You and I are going to change the world”
There may be some mild spoilers in this review.
Star rating: 4.5/5 stars
I went into this book a bit hesitant. There has been quite a bit of hype surrounding Leigh Bardugo’s books for years. I didn’t want to be disappointed by it. But, I was pleasantly surprised by this first book in the trilogy.
I am a bit hesitant to get behind the main love interest that comes up by the end of the book. While I have no issues with the character, the romance feels a bit rushed to me. Mal is a good character and I’m definitely curious to learn more about him. However, he clearly felt only platonic feelings towards Alina until she was gone. And then once they’re back together in the last third of the book, he’s in love with her? I don’t know it just feels a bit sudden. If it was feelings that were on the way to love I think I would’ve been less hesitant.
The plot definitely has a lot of intrigue. It’s fast paced for most of the book and the tension throughout makes the slower moments quicker to get through. Although I will admit that there really isn’t a slow moment, just moments that are a bit slower than others. The politics of the world definitely add interest to the plotlines going on.
I really like the character development in this book. It is just the first book so some characters have less development than others depending on how often they’re in the book. Alina develops really well throughout this book. Watching her learn more about her powers and the complexities of being a Grisha is very fun to read. I also love her friendship with Genya. I definitely want to see more of Genya in the next books. Honestly I think Genya is my favorite character so far.
The world-building is done very well. I felt completely immersed in the world the whole time I was reading. The Grisha world is definitely a world I want to learn more about. I know that the map in Siege and Storm shows more of the world than Shadow and Bone and I think that this world is complex and I’m definitely excited to see more of it in the next Grishaverse books. And it’s a great introduction to a new fantasy world.
“The problem with wanting, is that it makes us weak”
Who do I recommend this book to?
Honestly, anyone who loves fantasy. I think that if you enjoy fantasy and are looking for a new fantasy world, then you should try this book out. It’s world is inspired by tsarist Russia which is definitely a different take on fantasy than the traditional medieval Europe. So if you want to take a slight step away from that traditional take on fantasy, then the Grishaverse is probably perfect for you.
I also think that this book is great for new fantasy readers. Because it’s YA, the logic and world building feels easy to understand. Which is why I think it would be perfect for new fantasy readers. Fantasy can be a daunting genre so a book with an easy to understand world/logic can help someone get into fantasy.
Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think about it?