BOOK REVIEW: Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo
We included Shadow and Bone on our Summer YA Fiction Round-Up, and for very good reasons: it seems to be catching on like wildfire for adults and teens alike. It’s set in a place called Ravka, which bears a striking resemblance to Russia, geographically and culturally. But it’s most definitely not Russia—Ravka is a place of fantasy, of monsters and magic—but it means that, when you pick up this book and start devouring it (because trust us, you will), you’ll at least feel like things are familiar. This world isn’t so completely different than ours.
At the center of Shadow and Bone is Alina Starkov, a mapmaker. She travels with the army, charting the Shadow Fold (a mysterious dark region that splits Ravka in two and seems to be uncrossable because of the monsters that lurk within) and trying to help her people in the best way she knows how. She isn’t really good at what she does, but this is the only place she belongs—Alina is an orphan, and the only family she has is Mal, her best friend who is a tracker for the army. Being a mapmaker ensures that she can be close to Mal, and that’s important to Alina. She knows she’s irrevocably and completely in love with him (of course), but he still treats her like his kid sister.
When Mal’s regiment is sent into the Shadow Fold and they’re attacked, Alina tries to help, and ends up unleashing a magical power that no one (least of all, Alina) knew she had. Immediately, Alina is whisked away by the Darkling, the leader of the Grisha, which is a magical army under the command of the king. Torn away from everything she knows, will Alina find a way to survive at the royal court, or will she crumble under the new pressure she’s under?
It’s a fantastical world, to be sure, and Bardugo writes it well. There are a lot of questions, many mysteries to be answered, and only some are confronted in Shadow and Bone, the first book in a trilogy. As a result, at times, it feels as though you’re grasping for information, but in the end, everything does come together.
Alina’s a pretty amazing heroine for Shadow and Bone. When the book starts, she’s not what you’d call a strong woman. But over the course of the book, she really grows and changes. She becomes comfortable with her power, with being singled out, but she also recognizes she has a responsibility to use it wisely (Yes, we know... “With great power comes great responsibility”). It’s great to be along for the ride and watch her confront her darkest inner demons.
Shadow and Bone is a great start to what looks to be a fantasy trilogy of epic proportions. Bardugo takes Alina in an unexpected direction as the book progresses, and she’s forced to make some very difficult decisions about who she is and what she wants to stand for. It’s provocative, but it’s also an amazing amount of fun to kick back and read. The only thing you’ll have to complain about when it’s over is the long wait for the next book in the trilogy.
What's your favorite fantasy trilogy?