Published by Macmillan on June 5th 2012
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, General, Young Adult
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.
Before, Alina was a orphan living in Keramzin, her only companionship being a young boy named Mal. When neither of them test positive for being Grisha, they continue their lives as they always had and join the army. When her regiment goes into the Fold, the darkened part of Ravka and where volcra feast heavily on unsuspecting prey, and are then brutally attacked, a dormant power rises up in the young soldier. Now, thrown into an unfamiliar and rousing world of magic and hierarchy, she has to start making choices that she never believed herself to be faced with.
“’When fire burns, it uses wood. It devours it, leaving only ash. Grisha power doesn’t work that way…It feeds us instead of consuming us.’”
Upon entering this lavishly decorated new world, Alina wonders how she could possibly have gone from sharing a tent with fellow soldiers to being able to take a warm bath and lay in her own ginormous bed.
Leigh Bardugo created a very relatable character in Alina. Being in a new world, one in which she is not entirely sure she belongs, is originally a difficult adjustment. As much as I hate to admit it, I even saw the allure of the Darkling and understood Alina’s anger towards Mal. When Alina started to come more to a realization of who she is and the abilities that she has, the book got more exciting, intriguing. At first, I had a difficult time getting into the novel and only picked it up sparingly, reading a few pages at a time. I even debated trying to read something else and coming back to the book later, but I stuck it out and was very glad that I did. Suddenly, the book becomes enthralling, exciting, and irresistible. About a year ago, I got into the habit of marking certain quotes—memorable quotes—with sticky notes, and the second half of the book has more things that got me hooked.
For part of the book, I suspected that the growing attraction and fascination with the Darkling would be the love interest that is so common in the Young Adult genre, which I sumptuously enjoy. The complete 180 that Bardugo presents halfway through the novel, changing the ordained personas of the characters that have already been given, threw me for a loop. Characters, like Mal, that had been discussed more than presented in the novel suddenly have a larger part to play in the plot.
I found myself looking at the prices on Barnes and Noble, debating whether or not to order online or buy in store with Christmas gift cards, of the next two books even before I had completely finished Shadow and Bone. The aspects that I craved in the first book of the Grisha trilogy—the war of good and evil, finding one’s true power, a poignant romance between the main character and her old friend—hopefully will continue into the next books.
The book made me wish for fur blankets and a warm fire place as piles of snow gathered on the ground outside. I recommend this book for lovers of war and unrequited love, which combines to make an explosive story of loss, heartbreak, and blossoming into someone, something new.
“’There is something more powerful than any army. Something strong enough to topple kings, and even Darklings. Do you know what that is?…Faith.’”