“The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak” (221).
Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone is a YA fantasy set in the Russian-inspired fictional world of Ravka. Ravka was once a great nation, until an impenetrable darkness known as the “Shadow Fold” ripped it in two and turned innocent people into flesh-eating monsters that thrive in the dark.
Its fate now rests in the hands of a seventeen-year-old refugee who has no idea what she’s doing: Alina Starkov(a).
When Alina and her best friend (and secret crush), Mal, are sent on a dangerous mission into the Shadow Fold, their convoy is attacked, and Alina discovers a blinding power she didn’t know existed and saves Mal’s life. This sudden turn of events takes Alina away from everything she knows and thrusts her into the world of the royal court, and the Grisha: the magical elite led by the infamous Darkling.
Shadow and Bone is told in first person POV through Alina’s eyes and was Leigh Bardugo’s debut back in 2012, so it’s a bit of an oldie. I first read the Grisha Trilogy back in 2015 and enjoyed them at the time, but I wasn’t sure if it would still hold up today. My reading tastes have changed, and I’m far more critical now than I was back then.
Is this series still worth reading?
Yes. Yes it is.
This book is like a 17th century, Russian-inspired X-Men, and I’m still all for it.
Rereading this story after four years was like eating comfort food: I enjoyed every minute of it. The simplicity of Bardugo’s writing combined with her unique magic system made for a fun read, and at just 358 pages, this book is easy to devour.
Then there’s the fantastic world-building, which Bardugo excels at. Ravka feels like a real place that’s been touched by magic. The setting is lush and descriptive without being flowery or overdone.
Now, Shadow and Bone does have “The Chosen One” trope and a hint at a love triangle, which may deter some, but I think Bardugo did both of these tropes justice. Alina is “The Chosen One,” destined to destroy the Shadow Fold with her “sun summoning” powers, but the way she deals with it all is not only relatable, but also amusing?
She has no idea what she’s doing.
Grisha usually receive their powers as children, so as a teen, Alina is far behind, and she’s not afraid to let people know it. She’s totally lost in this new Grisha world, and honestly? I’d be the exact same way.
Me + new superpowers and a destiny= no clue.
As for the love triangle, it’s not the kind of love triangle where Alina is constantly thinking, “Oh no! Who should I choose?!?” when it’s obvious. Her feelings for certain characters make sense at the time and work well with the plot instead of taking over.
Shadow and Bone is such a fun and easy read. My only gripe is I think characters could’ve been developed more. At 358 pages, you blast through the plot fairly quickly and don’t get to spend much time with key characters like the Darkling. I would’ve liked to have seen more of him and his relationship with Alina in this first book.
Also, Leigh Bardugo does this weird thing where she uses animal noises as dialogue tags? Words like bleated, squeaked, crowed, and hooted. I know dialogue tags are my own personal pet peeve, so maybe it doesn’t bother anyone else, but it bothered me.
Shadow and Bone
Overall, I give Shadow and Bone four stars. It’s still enjoyable after four years, and I think the story holds up after seven. I loved the world-building, the writing, and the magic system. The characters are flawed in their own ways, and the Darkling?!? Can we talk about my newfound love for him? I know I didn’t feel this way back in 2015, but 2019 me is having second thoughts.
lip biting: 9 (!?!?!)
What do you think? Let me know in the comments down below!