Shadow and Bone
By: Leigh Bardugo
Review by: Kylie Comfoltey
Alina Starkov is just an orphan, raised to serve her kingdom of Ravka in the King's First Army. Skinny, clumsy and sickly looking; always with bags under her eyes and, oh, that mousy hair. She's not exactly the ideal soldier but she makes a fine cartographer, and she's just happy to be in the company of her best friend and fellow orphan, the hunky tracker-extraordinaire, Mal. When they are sent into the Shadow Fold, a dark abyss full of flesh-eating abominations which separates Ravka and haunts its people, Alina fiercely protects a threatened Mal and it is discovered that Alina holds an incredible and very valuable power. Could she be the one to break the curse of the Fold and save her kingdom?
Tell the truth: when you read the word "orphan" up there, did it grab you or push you away? Did you think, "What's with all the orphans these days?" or "Yay! I love orphans?" Just curious.
I wish I could rate things on a 10 star scale. I'm so stingy with my fifth star. But it doesn't matter, have all 5 of my stars!
I thoroughly enjoyed Shadow and Bone. I was drawn into the world Leigh Bardugo created, full of "magic" and palaces and, of course, the good guy vs. bad boy love triangle. I loved reading about the Grisha. Heck, I want to be Grisha! Beauty, cool powers, strength, personal trainers (if you want to think of them that way, which I do), hot baths in a hammered copper tub, four-poster canopy bed: gimme.
It's not all shiny and happy. Grisha are basically glorified servants to the King, but they're well-educated and have almost anything they desire at their beck and call. In other words, I'd rather be Grisha than a peasant soldier.
This book has some good twists to it, though they don't come as complete surprises. Alina is a fairly strong character. She has little confidence in herself and craves to change that. She's new at the whole relationship thing, and at one point wonders if it's good enough just to be wanted by someone. Alina wants to fit in, but not badly enough to side with snobs or join the gossip club. I think she's like-able, and even relate-able for many readers. She's strong and capable and grows throughout the book.
Mal is a great character. He's strong, strikingly attractive, funny; possibly the best tracker in Ravka, so that's something. He is Alina's best friend. He's also Alina's secret crush, in an on-again-off-again way. Mostly on-again.
Then there's the Darkling. Should we love him or hate him? All that black he wears, the whole conscience-free vibe, and the fact that he doesn't appear to have a name other than "Darkling" hint toward the hate/fear arena, but he's handsome, powerful and sometimes seems so down to earth and just human. He ruffles his hair, people. Who doesn't like a good disheveled hair moment?
I could do without some of the made up language. I tend to waste minutes at a time trying to decide how to pronounce a certain word until I eventually decide to just skim over that word through the remainder of the book to avoid further time waste and frustration. A pronunciation guide might help (good news! It's on the website!). I remember the first time I picked up a Harry Potter book to read to a kid I was babysitting. I pronounced "Hermione" completely wrong and was told off by a 7-year-old. It stung. It did.
There wasn't much I didn't like about Shadow and Bone. The world Bardugo created is original and detail-rich, but not annoying. The story is not full of constant cliffhangers, so many of you will be happy about that. The plot manages to grip the reader without those frustrating cliffhangers and it certainly kept me reading. The story ends with some closure, but gets you excited for the next installment and does finish on a feel-good note. Overall, a very entertaining and memorable read. Can't wait for more!
Sexuality: Moderate. It doesn't pop up everywhere, but there is one semi-hot-and-heavy moment.
Drugs/Alcohol: Mild. Bardugo refers to a made-up drink throughout the book. I remember beer being mentioned, and champagne is enjoyed by Alina at a shindig.
Profanity: Mild. I remember the b-word used once.
Violence: Moderate. It's a wartime era and some of the Grisha are highly trained killers. Also, some animals were harmed in the unfolding of this novel.