Plot: 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.
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone follows Alina Starkov, a junior cartographer’s assistant within the First Army, who is preparing to cross the Shadow Fold with her regiment. As they cross, they are attacked, with many of Alina’s skiff mates either murdered or severely injured. It is on the Shadow Fold that Alina discovers a powerful ability that could be the key to saving their war-torn country.
I’m a sucker for fantasy on the best of days, but the way Bardugo throws you into her world, the way she introduces this dark and magical and disturbed world that she has created instantly hooked me. It wasn’t a case of me wanting to know more but rather needing to. I’ve been in a massive book slump lately thanks to my incredibly hectic schedule (one exam done, five more to go…) but I managed to devour this book in a couple of days. The world is mysterious and compelling.
Alina is a character that I instantly connected with. A refugee who grew up in a boarding house, who has only ever had one constant in her life, and who has always been second to everyone else – never as talented, never as attractive, never as good. Alina is suddenly ripped from the only life she has ever known and thrown into a brand new world as a Grisha, the military’s magical elite. Bardugo’s writing style is extremely atmospheric and descriptive. I could feel the terror and uncertainty from Alina as I read. The journey Alina embarks on through the course of the book is something I could relate to, which made her a much more endearing character to me. The one word that keeps cropping up when I attempt to describe Alina is empowering. Despite the newfound fame and attention she’s been given and the amount of pressure that’s resting on her shoulders, Alina takes it all in her stride and does her hardest to train and get a better grasp on her newly-discovered abilities.
The next part could potentially be controversial as I’ve seen quite a mixed response regarding the Darkling. For me, the Darkling is one of the most mysterious and interesting characters that I’ve encountered in a book recently. He is the leader of the Second Army. Where the First Army is made up of simply humans, the Second Army consists of Grisha. The lack of information regarding the Darkling, in particular in the beginning, made for compelling reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery surrounding him and the interactions he had with the other characters.
One of the main aspects of the story was the Grisha, which, as mentioned above, are the military’s magical elite. The Grisha are made up of three types – Corporalki, who comprise of Healers and Heartrenders; Etherealki, who are divided into three subgroups of Squallers, Tidemakers, and Inferni; and, lastly, there’s the Materialki, who are made up of Alkemi and Durasts. It took me a while to fully grasp the terms for each type of Grisha, as well as a lot of terminology within the book as there are quite a number of words that were brand new to me. This did mean that I had to re-read several sections of the book a few times over to take in what was happening and being said. However, terminology aside, I absolutely loved the abilities the Grisha possessed. While all the abilities were interesting, some were downright terrifying and others incredibly useful. An aspect of these abilities that I thoroughly enjoyed was the scientific nature to the powers.
This wouldn’t be a YA book if there was no romantic interests and love triangle. This I thought was done really well, and I enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t the sole focus of the plot.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters, the magic, the world… all of it was exactly the kind of book that I adore. It ticked all the right boxes for me and, if you have never read this series before, then I hope it ticks all of the right boxes for you as well. It was interesting, well thought out, and the story flowed beautifully.
I’m currently on the third book of the series – Ruin and Rising – and absolutely loving it. I love the direction its heading in and all the new characters that have been introduced, so watch this space for the review of the second book of the series, Siege and Storm, and, eventually, the review for Ruin and Rising.
Have you read this trilogy before? Did you enjoy it as much as I did or do you have a completely different opinion? I’d love to know. And if you have your own review of it then I’d love to give it a read. Leave your links in the comments below!