Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo

From Goodreads:
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.

Rating: 5 Stars

Shadow & Bone is the first book in the Grisha Trilogy and what an epic start to the series it has been. I was first drawn to this book because of its beautiful cover and the map inside the cover. I ended up purchasing the book on the spot. Did I mention it has a map? I love books with maps! I actually purchased this book a while back but didn’t get the chance to read it until recently and now I am absolutely obsessed with the world Leigh Bardugo has created. Why did I wait this long to read this??? The series is now complete with both Siege & Storm and Ruin & Rising having been released. I am currently reading Ruin & Rising, but I first wanted to share my thoughts and love for the book that started it all for me.

There are so many different things I loved in this novel that it’s difficult to find a good place to start my review and avoid all spoilers.  Bardugo is a remarkable storyteller with outstanding world building skills and an impressive ability to develop unforgettable characters. The fantasy world, Ravka, which Bardugo has created was inspired by Tsarist Russia of the early 1800s. I found this world to be absolutely fascinating and unique, setting it apart in my mind from all other fantasy books I’ve read. The historic feel of the novel provided a sense of nostalgia for me; as I am from Romania, I spend most of my school years learning about the Russian Empire history, as parts of Romania came under the rule of Imperial Russia. Bardugo managed to create a beautiful marriage of Russian mythology and folklore in order to deliver one of the best fantasy reads.

The novel starts with a short prologue in which we meet two orphaned children, Alina and Mal, and we get a glimpse into the time they spent together. Alina is the main character, she grows up to be a scrawny and sickly looking girl, with no particular gifts or talents and is completely insecure. She always felt like she was different and she never fit in with the other orphans. Mal on the other hand grows up to be a fantastic tracker, the best actually, a handsome guy that all girls tend to swoon over, he exudes confidence, and can find a way to fit in with anyone.

Ravka, once a great nation, is now split in two by the Shadow Fold, a place of impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on all humans that dare to cross it. As Alina and Mal, along with a regimen of soldiers and trackers, try to cross the fold they are under the attack of the Volcra. When Mal is in danger of being killed by the Volcra, Alina unleashes a power she never knew she had until it burst out of her in the midst of the Volcra attack. Her powers are not only unique but they are Ravka’s only hope of destroying the Shadow Fold and along with it all the Volcra.

Once her powers are revealed, Alina is taken away to the royal court to be trained alongside other Grisha, a magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. The Grisha world is filled with magical powers and abilities, but even in this world Alina stands out, not being able to fit in with the other Grisha. There are 3 categories of Grisha described at the very beginning of the book: Corporalki (The Order of the Living and The Dead), Ethrealki (The Order of Summoners) and Materialki (The order of Fabrikators). I would bookmark this page and refer back to it as necessary.

The villain of this story is probably the best I have ever read. There are so many mixed emotions when it comes to Bardugo’s villain. You sometimes love him and sometimes hate him, fully trust him one moment and turn around to completely distrust him the next. He is powerful, enigmatic, seductive, handsome, and cruel at times. He is at the center of this amazing story and he will leave you exhausted from conflicting emotions that change with each page. He is the one villain you will love to hate.

There are many secondary characters that come into play. Bardugo took her time in developing these characters so much so that sometimes I found myself hoping that some characters would be involved in most scenes and I constantly wondered what they were up to when they weren’t around. I absolutely loved the fact that I never knew who was good and who was bad. I was constantly doubting and second guessing everyone’s intentions and motives.

I was blown away by the amount of detail Bardugo included in her world, the building of Ravka, the magical elements, and the characters she created. The pace she set for the novel was great: the beginning of the story was extremely fast paced making sure that the reader is completely engrossed in the story and has a hard time putting the book down; the middle of the book had a somewhat slower pace that focused more on the world building and developing the characters and their relationships; and, an astonishing ending with major twists that will leave you reaching for the sequel. What more could I ask for? This book has it all: mystery, romance, adventure, action, and magic. Shadow and Bone is without a doubt a new obsession for me and I cannot wait to see how the story ends. 


  1. This was a great read and I'm still amazed it took so long to pick it up myself. I agree with most and it's super cool that you had that background knowledge learning that growing up. It was an amazing story and yes the map was awesome sauce! The villain was pretty bad ass and I loved not knowing who to trust.

  2. I am still absolutely in love with this series. I can't wait to share my thoughts on the remaining books in the series.