Title: Shadow and Bone | Author: Leigh Bardugo | Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.”– Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone
I’ve been jumping on a lot of bandwagons lately, and this is no exception. I honestly never heard of this series before the Netflix show was announced, and I was excited to watch it – I mean did you see Ben Barnes? YUM – but I never intended to read the books. Then I was invited to a fantastic Whatsapp group chat with some fellow book-loving 20-somethings from around the world, and we decided to all read it together. And so, here we are!
Before I start on my review, I will say that I made the mistake of reading A Court of Silver Flames between reading Shadow and Bone and writing this review, and currently, my brain is lost in Velaris and the Illyrian Mountains. But here is my attempt to focus and decode my notes.
Shadow and Bone is the story of a young woman, Alina Starkov, who lives in the war-ravished nation of Ravka. The world she lives in is full of danger, magic, and mystery. The story kicks off when Alina discovers a dormant power within her, and she is thrust into the world of the elite Grisha – the magical army of the nation led by the powerful Darkling.
I found the world to be so captivating, and I loved what seemed to be some Russian influence on the setting and language. The world itself is just so clever and so different from anything else I’ve ever read. I did, however, wish the elements of the world were explained in more detail that was easier to follow. I honestly thought for a second that I missed a book or series that came before this one that set up the world because I was just lost for a while. It would be helpful if there were a dictionary and pronunciation guide in the book because I constantly googled what things were and how to pronounce them. Also, I recognize this is a foolish thing to get hung up on, but I wanted a more in-depth description of a kafta. I’ve mentioned that I am a very visual reader and seeing that many main characters spend the book wearing a kafta, I just struggled to visualize it.
As a protagonist in a YA novel, Alina is a relatable character. She starts as an average girl with a bit of fire and a crush on her best friend – who wasn’t that girl in middle/high school? I do love the development of her character throughout the book. She slowly steps into her power and becomes more sure of herself the more she learns the “truth” of the world she lives in. (Is it the truth, though? I have my speculations…) The other characters in the story left a lot to be desired, however. As the first book in a trilogy, I can see how leaving a bit of mystery is essential, especially with the Darkling, and I hope to see more character development from the Darkling and Mal in future books. Speaking of Mal… I have my opinions that I will refrain from sharing, but I found his character regression to be an interesting juxtaposition to Alina’s development.
The pacing was quick, and I loved how it got to the action almost right off the bat, and then it never really slowed. As a YA novel, it lacks some of the mature themes that I love to see in my books, so the fast and exciting pacing was essential to keep my interest until the very end.
As the first book in the trilogy, it leaves me with many questions and even more theories. I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so I won’t share my ideas but let’s just say I’m getting some Hawk from From Blood and Ash vibes from the Darkling.
In the next two books, I’m hoping to see even more growth from Alina and see her take command of her own life and become the real badass I know she is destined to be. Of course, I want more of the Darkling; I mean, will I even read a book without a tall, dark, and mysterious man in it? The answer is no. Overall I liked this book, and while I wasn’t so enthralled that I felt I had to pick up the next one immediately, I’m excited to get back into the trilogy and see what happens next! I gave Shadow and Bone three stars. If you’re planning to watch the Netflix show or even just thought the trailer looked good, I recommend you pick up the book as well.
Have you read Shadow & Bone? What did you think?