I really went into this Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo pretty blind. The only thing I knew about it was the fact that it was a Young Adult Fantasy series with a world that resembled old world Russia. I actually think this is the best way to read this book, and reason being are the mixed reviews. Don’t let reviewers make up your mind before you read it! I know it has mixed reviews from some high profile BookTubers and Goodreads reviewers, some love it and others found it meh. But if you go into this book with no expectations, I think you will appreciate it much more.
Shadow and Bone follows a young orphan named Alina. She is a foot soldier in the King’s Army and is forced to travel into the Shadow Fold where there are vicious creatures. Once inside the creatures attack and in an effort to save her best friend, Mal, she learns she has the power to harness and use light against the creatures. She is then whisked away to the world of the Grishas (magical soldiers) by the Darkling, who wants her help in demolishing the Fold and reuniting their country. I don’t want to give too much else away because, like I said, it’s better not knowing before you read.
What I love about this book is the setting. It has the feel of 1800’s Empirical Russia, were there is great beauty and wealth but also great suffering and sadness. The way Bardugo writes makes Ravka feel very real and very cold. The magical system is also interesting, as the Grisha are able to use basic elements (fire, wind, water, earth) to create, move, change, enforce, etc. And our main character is able to summon the element of light, which is very rare. I loved learning about Alina’s power as she tries to gain control over it, and I felt like Alina’s character growth was fantastic as she gained confidence in herself over the course of the story. She started out pretty meek and scared and ended up a basic bad-ass. She reminded me a lot of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, with her spunky attitude and the way she doubted herself but was able to push through to accomplish an end goal.
The thought filled me with grief, grief for the dreams we’d shared, for the love I’d felt, for the hopeful girl I would never be again. -Alina
I think some reviewers tend to downgrade this book in a sense that Bardugo uses some pretty basic YA tropes. For example, it’s pretty common for a YA character to randomly discover they have a magical power that is more special than other magical powers. It’s also common for said character to not be able to control said power until it is crisis mode in the plot. But as common as this is, I was able to look passed it because I was so invested in the storytelling. The other trope that is present is the love triangle of two seriously good looking dudes and one average girl. Yes this is in the story but I was rooting for one guy so much that the other just didn’t seem like an option at all.
I really, really enjoyed this story and I am looking forward to the next 2 books Storm and Siege and Rise and Ruin. I would recommend this book to YA fans, but not if you are a stickler for high fantasy, as this does not read like a typical fantasy novel. I know I’m a little late to this party, but if you haven’t read it yet, you might want to soon, since it has been optioned as a movie by the guy who did Harry Potter. I’m just saying. Do it now. 4.5 stars.
*Some links are affiliate links which means I will make a small commission should you choose to purchase through my links. Thanks for your support!