Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone

by Leigh Bardugo

Series: "The Grisha" #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: June 5th, 2012
by Macmillan




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 lifeโ€”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 Grishaโ€ฆand the secrets of her heart.


Those who know me and my reading tastes know that while I enjoy an occasional fantasy novel, it’s definitely not my forte or my go-to genre. Why? Because I have a hard time visualizing fantasy worlds. I’m never quite sure how to picture them – as alternate realities? Dream-like worlds? Something else altogether? – and I’m usually left trying to focus on that the entire course of the story.

This being said, I really appreciated what Leigh Bardugo had to offer here. While this was certainly not a perfect novel by any account, I found myself flipping pages, engrossed in Alina’s story.

In an alternate Russia, a special percentage of people have been blessed with powers – the Grisha – whom have the power to heal or to harm, to create fire or storms, or to manipulate the elements. Alina Starkov, our protagonist, is shocked to find out she’s one of those special people. And she may be the most powerful of them all, and possibly even the key to their survival.

Alina was a heroine that I felt a bit ambivalent to. She starts out as a poor young orphan, than slowly climbs up to royalty in the Grisha class system. I found her to sulk and whine just a bit too much for my personal liking.

The book’s main flaw, however, is succumbing to the cliche of needing a love triangle. There is a romance between her childhood friend Mal and the dark, mysterious Darkling. Personally, I could care less if she ends up with Mal or the Darkling (although I’d slightly prefer the Darkling), because both relationships have something equally unappealing about them (with Mal, he’s a bit whiny; with the Darkling there’s the problem of him being evil).

The problem is that such a large majority of the story (over 75%) focuses purely on the romance rather than developing the world or the characters; something that didn’t suit well with me.

However, in the style of Divergent, the pages fly by endlessly and you find yourself caring for the protagonist and the story despite the flaws out of pure enjoyment. I will definitely read the sequel, but I am crossing my fingers that the love triangle is a little less prominent.


8 thoughts on “Shadow and Bone

  1. I’m glad that you ended up at least liking this one! I put it off for a while too, because of all the the hype, but when I did pick it up, I was just floored. I’m glad that Leigh was really able to make an old “normal girl with unique powers” thing, well, unique, and it really branched out from the cliches present in the dystopian genre as a whole. Also, I really liked Alina as a character as well. She did have her faults, but I admired her strength, And of course, both Mal and the Darkling were awesome love interests. I have to disagree with you on the love triangle part- I think there’s at least a hint at a love triangle, although it never really develops to the point where it’s a real one. If that makes any sense. xD

    Lovely review! <3

    1. Thank you Aneeqah! Yeah, that’s what I did too, but I’m definitely glad I let my fears slide and picked it up! I definitely agree that it was amazing how Leigh was able to “break free from the genre standards” so to speak. I’m so glad you liked Alina too! I definitely agree with you – she had her faults, but what really matters in the end (that sounds so violent – LOL!) is that she’s a good and strong person overall; and I really admired that. Plus, nobody’s perfect, right? Yes, yes they were definitely great love interests! There’s definitely a hint of a love triangle, but because of [spoiler]what the Darkling did / was planning to do[/spoiler], but like you said, it never really got to the point where it was an actual triangle. Yep – that makes perfect sense! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m hopping over to your blog now! xD

  2. This book is coming to me…slowly, slowly…but eventually I WILL eat it (that wasn’t violent at all). I’m kind of dubious that the author is “misuing” Russian culture aspect already though. I mean, it’s fantasy, right?! I know (from being a writer) that I pluck bits and pieces from cultures and mash them all together. Doesn’t mean I didn’t know the original, just means I arranged them to suit my villainy. *shrugs* That was random. *cough* But I’m really looking forward to this! I’ve only heard good things about Darkling…

    1. Hmm…that’s an interesting point Cait! I definitely see where you’re going in terms of incorporating a culture into a fantasy story, but from what I’ve got (correct me if I’m wrong!) this is supposed to be strictly Russian culture – not fantasy culture, Russian culture. I might be probably am wrong, but this is my take on it!

      And you’ll love the Darkling… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I’m glad you ended up enjoying this overall, Zoe! It’s actually a favourite of mine, and I like the sequel, Siege and Storm, even more. I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about the Russian culture, I have to admit, so any inaccuracies or holes in the world-building went unnoticed by me. Though I don’t think they would have bothered me too much anyway, as I know Russia was just the inspiration, whereas Ravka is its own world. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the romance! I agree about the Darkling’s character, though I think I’ll always like Mal more. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope you enjoy the sequel! Lovely review, Zoe.

    1. Thanks Sam! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ll definitely have to read Siege and Storm ASAP! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Yeah – at first I didn’t realize it either, but after reading some other people’s reviews and doing some of my research, I found out that not everything was 100% accurate. It didn’t bother me that much because – like you said – even though Ravkan culture is based on Russian culture, in the end they’re two different worlds, so that didn’t really matter much.

      Huzzah! Team Mal! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks Sam! <3

  4. The Grisha Trilogy (And anything Leigh Bardugo writes) is my favorite <3 I loved Mal, and the Darkling.. and ugh.. JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU MEET MY FAVORITE PRECIOUS LITTLE CINNAMON ROLL FROM BOOK TWO. Sorry for the shouty letters, I get really excited about Nikolai.

    Wonderful review <3

    1. NIKOLAI. <3 I read the second book a LONG time ago, but I keep forgetting to review it. (I'm definitely overdue for a reread. xD) So glad you liked this too!

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