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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (thoughts)

August 22, 2012

From the author’s website:
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 unlikely 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.

Upon hearing about Shadow and Bone I immediately dismissed it as something I wouldn’t like because for some reason I’m convinced that I don’t like Fantasy. I mean, yes I do love contemporary fiction, but that shouldn’t mean that I dislike everything else.

So, Shadow and Bone. After seeing many rave reviews and meeting the author (who is lovey and very friendly), I decided to give it a chance. And I am so, so, so glad I did. Put simply: I liked this book, a lot. Expanded a bit: it was really unique but didn’t feel completely unfamiliar. That enough of an explaination? Oh, you want a little more detail than that?

The world that Bardugo created is very Russian/Slavic-esque, and that alone set it apart from most everything else I’ve read (except for Anna Karenina, and this was MUCH more approachable than that monster [no, I will not be reading War and Peace any time soon]). I had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around all the different Grisha titles and some of the other non-English terms at first, but Bardugo did a good job of explaining those as the story progressed. And then we get to the Grishas; beautiful and powerful and mysterious. I really liked that the Grisha learning centre was a lot like boarding school. That helped bring some familiarity to the new wild world of Ravka. At least familiarity to the reader, not so much to Alina.

And yes, Alina was one of the primary reasons I liked Shadow and Bone so much. In some ways she is your typical reluctant heroine. But she’s a tough cookie, more vulnerable than she’d like to admit, and in the end she steps up 100%. I will be perfectly honest in admitting that part of the reason I liked Alina so much was because her name is so close to my own – my maiden name was Stark, so Alina Starkov? Pretty much an alternate reality version of Alita Stark.

As for the story itself, I was completely captivated. I couldn’t stop reading but also wanted to take my time and savour it. I loved watching Alina take control of her power (although it did seem to happen rather suddenly) and begin to find her place in the world of the Grishas. There were a couple of twists that took me by surprised and made it even harder for me to put down the book. And then there were other twists that I could see coming and had to keep reading to see for sure if I had figured it out. Pretty much, there was a lot of ‘I need to keep reading!’ going on.

Do I recommend this book? Um yes. Most definitely. But be warned that it’s the first in a series (I can’t remember off the top of my head how many – 3?). I cannot wait for the next one. I want to spend more time with Alina.

Source: Advance copy from Raincoast Books. Thanks Raincoast!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2012 7:19 am

    going to wait for this one. it’s not available at library yet to place a future hold… *drums fingers* :)

  2. August 22, 2012 7:37 am

    I’d like to read this one at some point. I’m a wee bit obsessed with Russia, so a fantasy novel with Russian influence seems intriguing.

  3. August 22, 2012 1:52 pm

    This does sound good. Ok, adding to list.

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  1. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (thoughts) | alita.reads.

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