Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

When I realised that nearly everyone I spoke to had read this series I decided to at least give it a go. Shadow and Bone introduces a magical and unique world filled to the brim with extraordinary heroes and unforgettable villains. However, despite its glowing reviews, there was something that just didn’t click.

Rating: 3/5

This review may contain mild spoilers for this book (What I consider spoilers might not be what you consider spoilers but I thought that I’d put it out there just in case). READERS YE BE WARNED!

There was a lot of hype around this book which made me want to read it so SO badly even though it took me forever to get to it. Unfortunately, for me at least, the first book in the Grisha trilogy did not live up to my expectations. In saying that, perhaps I was expecting too much but from what people were saying it was one of the greatest books they had ever read so I think my expectations were warranted. I will say that it’s still a good book and I do love the Darkling quite a bit but I won’t necessarily be rereading it.

GoodReads Blurb:

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.

In terms of plot this book was rather standard, as in it followed a similar basic plot line to quite a few other YA novels. A youngish girl (i.e. late teens) discovers magic powers and is whisked away to learn how to use them (usually meeting the main love interest for the book/series) only to discover that bad things are happening and that she is the only one who can stop them and save everyone from certain doom. This stereotypical YA plot line is furthered by the appearance of an (almost) love triangle which just so happens to be a pet hate of mine.

The world of the Grisha was everything I was expecting it to be, beautiful, lavish, and properly magical. If I was asked to describe the Grisha’s attitude towards each other I would say Mean Girls with magic. They go so far as to sit in their “cliques”! Throughout this book there were a few instances where the actions of characters left me totally bewildered, especially when said characters tend to be quite intelligent. Why on earth did that character ever think that doing that thing was ever a good idea? It just seems like an unnecessarily risky undertaking but don’t let that stop you (If you’ve read the book you may know what I’m referring to).

Character Appreciation/Disdain (Sometimes a rant but what can you do?)

Alina: To be perfectly honest I found her slightly irritating. That’s not to say that she is a badly written character, she wasn’t; just the opposite in fact. She was however, a bit of a cliche. Powerful but doesn’t know it, really needs to sort her shit out, and PLEASE for the love of all that is holy pick which dude you like.

Mal: You meet him for 5 seconds and he’s alright I guess but I don’t really think there was enough of him in the first book for me to form a proper opinion.

The Darkling: HOLY JESUS I LOVE YOU!!!!! Charismatic, good looking, powerful, suave in the extreme. He kind of reminds me of Court of Nightmares Rhys only potentially more manipulative.

Over the past couple of years Russian culture and folklaw has had a heavy influence on some YA fiction much to everyone’s delight. By incorporating aspects of the architecture and the superstitions Leigh Bardugo has created an absolutely gorgeous world in which to tell Alina’s story. Despite this trend being fairly popular, I haven’t read many books that incorporated it as seamlessly into the world the building as Shadow and Bone did and it was truly a delight to read.

Everyone and their dog has read the Grisha trilogy so I finally got my act together and started reading and, while I was slightly underwhelmed by the first book, I have high hopes for the second and third. The book was well written and the world inside was fabulous and magical but despite wanting to love it, I found the characters to be fairly standard and underdeveloped (except for the Darkling. He is a groovy lad) and the base plot to be fairly stereotypical of a YA novel. If you are a fan of any of Sarah J. Maas’ books or any other YA fantasy you may (or may not) want to take a gander at this one.

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