Review: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA, fantasy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a pretty entertaining book! The cover captures the mood of it perfectly - a little dark and mysterious, a little exotic, a little magical. The story centers around Alina Starkov, an orphan girl who suddenly finds herself at the center of attention after an incident where she uses powers she didn't know she had. Whether she is the bringer of the world's salvation or destruction remains to be seen...
I really enjoyed the shadowy, mysterious atmosphere that Leigh Bardugo sustained throughout the book. Ravka is loosely based on Russia, so there are a few (pseudo-)Russian words thrown in. The mythology and hierarchy in Ravka, with its white stags and robed Grisha, was very intriguing. I thought it was interesting how the Grisha were color coded according to their power and their role, and how certain powers were considered superior to others. It was also interesting to see how non-magical people perceived the Grisha as terribly beautiful, powerful, people.
I thought the characters were very interesting as well. Alina herself wasn't such an amazing character, but I thought it was realistic that she had trouble coming to terms with and mastering her new powers and her new role. I wasn't completely rooting for her because she seemed a little flat, and was very reliant on other people. She didn't seem to know what she wanted. The Darkling is such an intense, frightening character, yet there are some moments where he seems so understanding that it makes it hard for Alina to judge whether she can trust him or not. Genya was my favorite character, and it was interesting that she faced such prejudice for using her talents to create more beautiful faces. She seems like a wonderful person, but there were so many hints at a darker past and secrets that Alina does not yet know. Mal was absent for much of the book, but he has such a powerful bond with Alina and it was endearing to see how much their friendship meant to one another.
I had a few minor complaints: first of all, the names of the Grisha were a little contrived. It seemed like they were just called "insert word here that summarizes my powers" with a -ki added to the end (corporealki, materialki, etc). It just seemed kind of silly to me, and I had a hard time taking them seriously at first. I also thought the pacing was a little strange - the beginning was captivating and action-packed; then Alina spent a painfully long time simply learning how to master her power. The end was also very fast-paced and intense, with a quite a few surprises along the way. I just wish the middle had lived up to the great beginning and end.
I will definitely be reading the second book of this trilogy.
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