Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Length: 358 pages
Read Date(s): April 24, 2021 – April 26, 2021
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.
I decided to finally read this book because I wanted to watch the Netflix series. I had been contemplating it for a while, but I stayed away from it because of the mixed reviews it has gotten. I knew I would feel guilty about watching the show without reading the book first. So, I took the plunge and got the book from the library. It was a mixed bag for me; there were things I really enjoyed and others that annoyed me a lot.
For the most part, I enjoyed the plot and the world the author created for this story. It started out a bit slow, but the second half of the book was much more intense and fast-paced. There were some twists I didn’t see coming, which is always nice, and others I picked up on pretty quickly. The plot involving the amplifiers was somewhat confusing to me and left me with quite a few questions that I hope will be answered later in the series. The magic system in this world was a lot to digest at first with so many different groupings, but I found the various powers, and the order built around them, interesting. If anything, the book could have used more time spent on exploring the different factions and court intrigue because I found the world fascinating. However, I enjoyed the world-building style of slowly introducing different concepts throughout the story rather than doing a ton of huge info dumps.
The characters were hit or miss for me. I didn’t really care for Alina at first. She was annoying and constantly seemed obsessed with her looks and those of everyone else. She also acted helpless and did not want to accept her power, which I found frustrating. As her journey through the book progressed, I came to like her character more and more. I enjoyed the character progression quite a bit and am interested to see where her character goes next given how the book ended. I did not like Mal or the way he treated Alina for most of the book. I do not want them to end up together in the end. He came across as jealous and possessive, especially whenever he first interacted with Alina after she learned to use her powers. My favorite character was the Darkling. He was mysterious, dark (as implied by the name), and dangerous. I thought his relationship with Alina was one of the highlights of the book, even if it represented everything a healthy relationship should not be. I am curious to see if any of the feelings he had for her and the background he discussed early in the book were real or just a ploy to use her.
I enjoyed many of the themes the book portrayed. I especially liked how the book showed the detriments of hiding one’s true self for the sake of others. It can leave someone a husk of themselves, which this book showed well. I also loved the emphasis on how the power of mercy is stronger than that of death and destruction.
Overall, I enjoyed a lot about this book and thought it was a good book. I’m glad I read it. The world and themes were intriguing and engaging even if the plot and characters weren’t always that interesting. I recommend it for anyone who likes YA fantasy and doesn’t mind the usual tropes for that genre. Therefore, I rate the book 3 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think? Just don’t spoil the next two books for me. 🙂