Publisher: Square Fish, 2013
Rating 4 out of 5 stars
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo introduces Alina, a soldier in the First Army, who has never been very good at anything, but has been lucky to have her best friend Mal by her side since they were kids in the orphanage. Now they're headed into the Black Fold, a band of darkness and evil that separates Ravka from the sea. While traveling through the Fold, they are attacked and Alina (as well as everyone else) discovers that she has powers--powers only the Grisha have. Suddenly she's pulled away from everything and everyone she's ever known and thrust into the high society in which Grisha live. In a world completely different from her own, Alina must find out how to control her own powers so she can help save her country from the evils of the Fold.
I'm not sure where I've been that I never knew Shadow and Bone existed until recently, but I saw the cover and instantly wanted it. This was an excellent purchase because almost immediately I was pulled into the story. We're introduced to our main character, Alina, and her best friend Mal as young children about to come before three examiners, but then it cuts to the "grown up" Alina and Mal who are soldiers in the First Army. I was a bit annoyed because, even though it was a short introduction, there was so much that had been introduced here with Mal and Alina being orphans and completely devoted to one another. When that foreward was over, though, I kept wanting to fill in the pieces from their past because it was obvious as they grew up their relationship had changed. Also, now here we were with Alina pining over Mal who is completely oblivious to her feelings. Ehhhhh....
My problem with this wasn't that she was pining over her best friend, but that so much of her observation of others was focused on his or her beauty, especially female characters. This continued for awhile and it honestly was quite annoying, and is still somewhat bothersome. It definitely ties into the themes of appearance vesus reality that are woven throughout the book, but I never felt as if this idea of beauty and it being so valued was ever addressed. When Alina becomes more beautiful, she notes this and is happy about it and we don't hear much more about it, but it's because now she's one of the beautiful. It feels like this was the resolution for her character's struggle with beauty. Become beautiful. Alina also became more interesting to me when she stopped worrying about how beautiful everyone else was and how she wasn't.
Now onto other characters: I've always liked my male characters a little rougher, dirtier, and darker. A bit brooding perhaps, with some secrets of their own that aren't exactly innocent. The bad Angel wins out over the good Angel, and Spike wins out over any Angel, but only when he's being bad. In Hunger Games I wanted Peeta to be okay because he was nice, but I didn't really like him until the third book when...you know. The Darkling takes the cake! The Darkling is INTENSE. INTENSE. INTENSE (yes it warrants three intenses in all caps). Maybe a little too much of the cake, but BAM! It's this character that really allows the story to move on and become one of those reads where you just can't wait to find out what happens next. He pushes Alina to change and grow and there are things I cannot say without giving it away, but WOW!
I ended up pouring through Shadow and Bone, surprised when it ended so soon. I'll definitely be buying the next book in this trilogy by Leigh Bardugo soon so I can see what becomes of Alina.
Image source: Goodreads
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