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.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.
I first read Shadow And Bone almost three years ago, and while I liked it then, I found I had forgotten virtually everything about it, so I'd been intending to reread it for awhile. Since everyone is raving about Six Of Crows -a spin-off to the Grisha trilogy - I decided to go for it.
Alina Starkov is your average protagonist. Pretty plain, borderline Mary-Sue when the novel starts, but it doesn't take long for her to become more than that. As soon as her hidden powers as a Sun Summoner are discovered and she's whisked off to the King's palace for Grisha training, we begin to see a more three-dimensional side to her. She's got a sharp tongue and a fierce desire to master her power, but she's still homesick for her old life and for her best friend, Mal, and when she's alone we really see that vulnerablity shine through. Her story is a pretty typical one, but it's done well and kept me thoroughly entertained.
In these pages, Alina meets a few characters that will leave a lasting impression. There's Genya, the beautiful Tailor Grisha with a talent for perfecting faces, and a story that is more tragic than we'd first assume. There's Baghra, the tough-as-nails woman who is assigned to bring out Alina's latent power - and who is also much more than she seems. And, lastly and most notably, there's The Darkling, the gorgeous and powerful leader of the Grisha.
While Alina and Genya are both awesome characters, The Darkling is the best thing about this book. He's powerful and cunning, ruthless and passionate, and I am a total fangirl for him. While I know Alina is most likely to wind up with her childhood friend Mal, I will spend every page of this trilogy hoping she chooses passion over perfection, power over practicality. You don't often find a better anti-hero than The Darkling. I can't overstate how much I love him without squealing like a preteen banshee.
Unfortunately, though, even with all the wonderful things this novel has to offer, it still doesn't manage to break the mold in terms of YA high fantasy. The characters are great, the writing is accessible and so easy to lose yourself in, but the plot is still pretty generic. If you're a fan of the typical Hero's Journey fantasy trope, I don't doubt you'll love Shadow And Bone just as much as I did. If, however, you are turned off by cliche and searching for something more original, perhaps look elsewhere.
4 out of 5 stars