Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Series: Grisha #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: NetGalley
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.
Alina is a reluctant heroine, which is NICE to see. Lately, most of the books I've been reading have been all about the Antihero and Byronic sorts. Now, don't get me wrong, I love me an antihero. Who doesn't? That's why they're so popular. But I've also been craving a good, reluctant hero for a while now. And Alina is definitely that. She is in denial of her powers for some time and, even once she is forced to own up to them, is hesitant to let herself believe that she is powerful and can do important things. She doesn't see how she can possibly do what is expected of her to save her people, and she worries that everyone's high expectations of her will only lead to her letting them down. She needs to be urged on her way and forced down her path of awesome heroics.

I've seen people who don't like Alina's lack of confidence. They think that she should accept all of this stuff readily and know that she can do it and also think herself to be very beautiful even though she is sickly and wan. But the reluctant hero is a THING, you guys! It's an underappreciated thing, and I aim to appreciate it. I like seeing this self-doubting heroine who has to be shoved in the right directions until she can gain a better understanding of herself. It allows for so much more growth by the end of the story, and I find it to be a nice change of pace from the usual. She has to prove to herself that she can be amazing before she can go out and save the day.

The setting and plot have some enchanting elements to them that do a great job of fleshing out the world and the magic. Swallowing a chunk of Ravka in darkness filled with dangerous creatures, the Shadow Fold is effectively mysterious and creepy. The magical system is one that I really like, but I do wish it had been a just a tad more fleshed out because I did find it to be one of the more fascinating parts of the world even though the concept behind it isn't wholly unique. I also would like to have seen a little more to do with the political situation in Ravka because, while it seems to play a pretty important role in the plot, there really isn't that much that we learn about it other than that there are some tensions going around. The struggles for power could have been reinforced with a couple of specifics or a scene in which the power struggles were put on display rather than only being discussed among characters in private. A little evidence of complications on this point could have done wonders for the story, which, despite a minor twist or two, isn't really that intricate. It is fun, though, as well as fast-paced.

There are parts of this book that are influenced by Russian culture, and I've seen a few reviews in which people complain that the portrayal of Russian culture, particularly with regard to names and words, in Shadow and Bone is not entirely accurate. But for me, none of that matters. If this were a realistic fiction or a historical fiction or a nonfiction book, then yes those things would matter. A lot, in fact. But this is a high fantasy set in a second world. And "influenced by" does not equal "historical, cultural, and etymological copy of". So I have no problems with Alina's last name being Starkov instead of Starkova, etc. And I'm of the opinion that those sorts of things shouldn't have any bearing in a fantasy novel set in a world that is not our own. (That being said, I do think that borrowed words retain a better strength if they're used properly so that they cannot become a weak point for readers to fixate on.) I definitely recommend this as a fast-paced, enjoyable story with an interesting cast, world, and magic system.


16 comments:

  1. Sounds awesome. And I love the cover.
    Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is pretty awesome! And thanks~

      Delete
  2. SO glad you liked this. I've been looking forward to it and just purchased it, so am glad you approved! Can't wait to get started on it :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved this book! I loved the reluctant hero as well and all the reviews I've seen the people pointed out how great she was. I liked that it was a faster read than most high fantasy and was okay about it not going more in depth. I suppose we'll learn more in the future books.
    Glad you liked it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am okay with it too, I think. Though, I do love it more when high fantasies have a complicated world. I suppose it just makes the worldbuilding feel that much more realistic when things get complicated. I do really, really like this book though. Can't wait for the next one! And now there's a Ravkan folk tale up on Tor.com!

      Delete
  4. I was in love with this book from page one. It might've been because of all the Russian-like language, but mostly it was because this book was amazing. The story progresses fast, full of twist, turns, and self discovery. Alina is a strong character who has to learn how to deal with her new found power and everything that is expected of her. She is pulled into the world of The Darkling, a mysterious powerful being who sweeps her off her feet. He's a very interesting character. I enjoyed discovering more about him and watching his interaction with Alina.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with basically everything you're saying. And The Darkling! A very interesting character, indeed!

      Delete
  5. Hello. I'm a new follower of your blog. Would appreciate if you hop on mine. http://blottedpages.blogspot.com

    Btw, I very much looking forwardon readinh this book. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really enjoyed this one.. it was just really different. It's just one of those books that can really capture your imagination. As you mentioned, it has a really awesome magic system, and setting. I also agree with you in regards to the characters, Aliana quickly became one of my all time favorite female protagonists.

    One of the other things I really liked about this book, was how it felt like such a literal take on the battle of light versus dark, good versus evil or however you want to put it. I can't wait to see where this series goes though, I will definitely be reading the next book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The light/dark symbolism is something I liked too. Then you have characters like Baghra who maybe straddle the line, abandoning one thing for another, yeah? Definitely looking forward to Siege and Storm.

      Delete
  7. I think I read this book in one sitting...it was soooo good. I wish we would have seen more of the magic, as well, but I still loved the story, anyway. I saw where someone posted a dream cast for this movie with Helena Bonham Carter as Baghra...I think I could get on board with that. :) I want to go back to this world already!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I could see her as Baghra. Have you read the Ravkan folk tale that Tor has up on their site? It's pretty awesome.

      Delete
  8. Wow. I'm kind of going comment crazy on your blog at the moment, but it seems like you have a semi-recent review for ALL the books I've read or want to read! Lol. Anyways, this is probably one of my favorite reads of 2012 so far, so I'm glad you liked it too! I especially loved the world-building and the whole dark, gritty atmosphere!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will never complain about people going comment crazy on my blog! I also love the world and atmosphere that Leigh Bardugo has created. So fun! Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
    2. Lol! No problem. I love your review style! I'll definitely be stopping by more often! :)

      Delete

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment!

If you like this post, then please subscribe to the RSS feed!