Saturday, December 6, 2014

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Pages: 358
Genre: High Fantasy
Synopsis: 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.

Review:  Everyone, and I mean everyone, loves this book.  I've heard how amazing it is all the time. And, yeah, it was a good book, but I wouldn't quite say it was amazing.

The writing was plain and sometimes transparent.  It was not particularly exceptional, which I can say for the book as a whole. But Leigh Bardugo does write compellingly.  I couldn't put this book down.  The plot moved quickly, though the skips in time left me a little exasperated, as did the lack of exact information on the magical abilities of the Grisha.  The story was a standard YA fantasy, nothing extraordinary.  It is a spin on Russian folklore and is set in an alternate, magical Russian country.  It was a perfectly fine YA fantasy book, covered all the usual bases.  But I cannot help but to be slightly underwhelmed.  I expected a mind blowing, beautifully written fantasy book from all the reviews of it.  But in reality, it was quite average.  It was not as complex as I had hoped. The twists were not unforeseen and nothing besides the unique magical powers really stood out to me.  It was perfectly fine, just missing a little sparkle.

The world was intriguing, with the magical Grisha and the Unsea full of winged demons.  There is a constant state of war and hatred between neighboring lands and people.  I just wish it were explained a little more, and that Alina  hadn't spent most of her time at the palace.  You don't get to see much outside of that place, and even when the characters are not there, they are usually in the wilderness, not the main part of society. 

Though, the characters did feel real.  They talked, behaved, and joked around like real teenagers.  Well, teens who live in a sinister, magical world with people how could literally stop your heart if they felt so inclined.  Alina, the main character, was pretty cool. Stubborn, lonely, and relatable.  She was vulnerable and realistically unsure of who to trust.  My only real complaint is how unwilling she was to accept her powers and fight for most of the book. She has these awesome powers and yet still waits too often for someone to come around and save her. Her childhood friend, Mal, is not present in much of the book, but what we saw of him was pleasant enough.  He was heroic and admirable, a very likable character.  The Darkling, though, was the most interesting character of all.  Enigmatic and powerful, he proclaims that he and Alina are going to change the world.  He was the only real twist I didn't quite see coming.

But the side characters felt one-dimensional.  I get that they are side characters, but all of them had practically the same personality--especially the Grisha.  Only Baghra sparked any real curiosity, and even then she was not fleshed out enough. 

Shadow and Bone has promise, and I genuinely enjoyed reading this book.  I just hope the world and the characters are developed more in the sequel.  It is believable and adventurous, if not utterly remarkable. It left me wanting to know more.  

3.5 Keys 

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