Rating: 4 of 5 Swords
Hello, lovelies! I’m so excited that my first review of the year is on Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Many of you know that Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors ever, and while I definitely prefer her Six of Crows duology, I think her Grisha trilogy is well written as well. This is the second time I’ve read through Shadow and Bone — I’m rereading it in preparation for the Netflix show coming out later this year! *SQUEE*
Let’s go ahead and launch right into it, shall we?
Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.
When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, a magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.
Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her…and only she can save the future.
There are so many things I love about this book, so once I read it, it was pretty shocking to discover how many readers troll it online. Shadow and Bone is Barudgo’s debut novel, so she was an itsy bitsy writer. But I think one of the most beautiful things about having read both Shadow and Bone and the Six of Crows duology is that I can see Bardugo’s growth as a writer between each book. As a writer myself, it’s something that’s really encouraging to me to be able to see that someone as good as her started off in a place where she had some growing to do as well. I think a lot of readers unfortunately miss that, and thus they’re very disrespectful when they trash this story and the rest of the series for not being as good as Six of Crows.
It’s true that the characters in Shadow and Bone aren’t as fleshed out as the ones in Six of Crows, but I could still relate to them and I still felt for them throughout the entire journey. When Alina discovers her hidden power and is taken away from Mal and the only life she’s ever known, she’s terrified, and I feel like so many people can relate to that — whether it’s due to an unfriendly past or simply moving out on your own and trying to stand on your own two feet.
And Mal. I’m going to spill some tea here, folks. While Mal isn’t the greatest person in the story and he does come off as stale in some sections, the ship he has with Alina is well done for the story Bardugo is trying to tell. It doesn’t overpower the main plot. It respectfully remains in the background — always there, never forgotten, but not jumping in to try to distract the readers from the main points. It’s so well done, as I applaud Bardugo for that, especially since her debut novel and so many other authors struggle with things like that.
As far as the Darkling goes, all I can say is: buckle your seat belts. While a lot of readers troll on this book, they can all agree on one universal thing — the Darkling is probably one of the best written villains in any YA novel EVER. He’s dark and vicious, but somehow Bardugo twists him in a way that you care about him and root for him. He isn’t the bad guy anymore because part of you likes him or at least relates to him. And I can’t say much more than that because of spoilers, but if you haven’t read this series, you definitely should, if only just for him. He’s so phenomenally done, and I’m so excited to reread his progression through the rest of the series.
As far as plot goes, here’s the truth — if you’ve read Six of Crows prior to this series, you’re going to be a little disappointed. Six of Crows is full of high stakes and the plot starts off with a bang, whereas in Shadow and Bone, it starts off slowly and takes a little while to build up. It’s still very well done, in my personal opinion! But those of you that don’t care much for slow beginnings should be aware before you head in.
So, all of the good things being said, what were some low-lights this book had, especially during my second read through?
First and foremost, I could definitely tell the parts where the characters struggled or seemed stiff. There weren’t very many of them, but after reading Six of Crows, these characters are one step down from her latest characters. I wished they were fleshed out more and had more personality to them so certain scenes didn’t feel like the characters were made out of cardboard. And then, like I mentioned above, the plot is slow at first. This usually doesn’t bother me, but I feel like at the time of reading this book, I was looking for something for a fast opening; thus my initial mood going in was thrown off by how slow it was.
All in all though, I really enjoyed my reread of the first book in the Grisha trilogy, and I’m really looking forward to reading the others before the show airs!
Have you read the Grisha trilogy before? What are your thoughts on the series? Are you excited about the Netflix show coming soon?