Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on June 5th, 2012
Genres: fantasy, young adult
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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’d been curious about Shadow & Bone for some time, actually having it on my shelf for over a year due to my curiosity and buying it after hearing so many reviews. Some good, some bad. The mixture of thoughts came from my variety of reader friends. Unfortunately, I also heard a few spoilers to the characters (and there might be some mild spoilers below if you have not read this book and don’t know absolutely anything about it from reviews/fans), and that may have been why I didn’t pick it up immediately upon purchasing. It’s hard to want to read something right away when you know some things already, you know? But still, I’m trying something different this year with my shelves… trying to get many of the unread books cleaned away, or at the very least, the ones I know I do want to get to read for sure no matter how long they’d been sitting there. Shadow & Bone being one of them.
My curiosity picked up again when I took the book off the shelf and read the back and looked it over. I decided I really needed to give this book a shot, even if I did know some things about it I didn’t want to know going into it. Like how The Darkling wasn’t going to be any kind of good guy. He starts out seemingly a bit of one though. And Bardugo sucks the reader in with that… with an instant chemistry to his character almost that gives off this vibe. You want to like him. The majority of the book you want to feel like he’s not so bad. He’s just some mysterious guy, maybe an anti-hero at the most. But no. The twist toward the end says it all—he’s strictly the villain. He is not meant to be liked at all. And it is mind blowing and gut wrenching. There’s absolutely no hope for his character. You are not supposed to like him. At all. I have to keep reminding myself of this, sorry.
Here’s where I’m pretty impressed though: I’m not a big fan of Mal. He didn’t have much of a presence for me throughout the book so I didn’t feel entirely connected to his character. I just knew she was so madly in love with him since childhood, but after meeting The Darkling some other feelings for this other character begin to stir. I started wondering in the midst of this story if there is going to be yet another love triangle I’m going to be sucked into (not that I entirely mind, I don’t really have a huge problem with them sometimes) and then BAM. Nope. Not really. Not according to Bardugo or the direction of this story from my standpoint. Shit hits the fan I guess… To put it mildly. It takes a lot to surprise me because I’m a good guesser with twists most of the time.
My biggest problems? The insanity behind ‘beauty’ and being ‘beautiful.’ What? I didn’t really get it. Why? Why was there such an emphasis on the characters and their need to be beautiful? This was their world, I understood that part. But I just really did not get that she could not be her. As mentioned in the beginning—a flawed character—but accepting of herself. Instead there was so much built around about how she had to be beautiful, like The Grisha, she HAD to change her appearances to make herself blend in better with everyone else. And whenever she was just a little bit insecure about her appearance, she was putting herself down in horrible ways. This made me think of a lot of things, more than just the book and I don’t want to take too much time or stray away from the review. Haha.
Also, I obviously didn’t enjoy the romance as much as I’d hoped. I went into it expecting a lot of “ohhh” and “aaahhh” after reading several reviews. But after the crash and burn of The Darkling, the brief romantic bits I did like went with that. As I said before, I didn’t really connect with Mal. I might find myself enjoying his character a bit more in book two? We’ll see. Overall, I just found the world building mesmerizing and the general storyline to be entertaining. I read through it in only a night, flipping the pages with ease. When I was through, I’d already hopped onto Amazon and ordered Siege and Storm. I’m looking forward to seeing where this series takes me next!