Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Grisha #1
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Purchase
Pages: 368

Summary (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.

I didn't even bother to attempt to omit anything spoilery. Just in case you're one of those people (like me) who is reading this and hasn't already jumped on this bandwagon. And this isn't even really a review. It's just my ramblings. Just in case that's not your thing, turn back now.

Okay, so I mentioned in a tag one time that my least favorite trope to read about in a book is the one where the girl finds herself to be so boring and plain and not pretty, but actually she is and everyone loves her and blah blah blah. Well, I'm bringing that up because I was just reading other people's reviews of this book on Goodreads and someone was saying something about how they felt Alina fit this trope and I disagree. So I wish to babble about why I disagree. Also, it's probably the most coherent thought I have on this whole book.

In the beginning of the book, Alina kind of strikes me as an outcast. She was an orphan of the forever ongoing war between Ravka and the neighboring countries along with her best friend, Mal. They grow up and join the military together and she seems to just be off by herself. She is a mapmaker and not even a very good one, in her own opinion. She is always wishing for the good old days when Mal actually noticed her or took interest in her. The way she is described makes me think of someone who is really sickly. She constantly has dark circles under her eyes, she's way too skinny, she can't sleep, she has no appetite, she doesn't have pretty skin, etc. Then going through the Shadow Fold, she unleashes her rare Grisha powers to save Mal from the volcra and she is consequently taken by the Darkling to Os Alta where she is trained to use her powers. She fails in her training with Baghra to use her powers at her own will, she fails in combat training with Botkin because of her sickly nature, and she fails in socializing with other Grisha because she doesn't believe she belongs there and doesn't believe in herself. People only seem to be interested in her for her rare Sun Summoner abilities. 

Then she has kind of a realization/flashback about her past and realizes that she doesn't have to hide her powers anymore. So she lets it out and her sickly-ness goes away. She can sleep and regains her appetite so she fills out and loses the dark circles, but I still don't really recall anyone describing her as pretty. Maybe I skimmed over the book too fast NEEDING to know what happens next, but I don't remember that at all. It seemed to me that it probably took a big physical toll on Alina to suppress those powers for so long. And as a result of all that, she gains more confidence and finds that she's finally found a place where she fits in.

And as for the part of the trope where the character's got all these guys in love with her, I don't believe that the Darkling loves her. I think that he loves her power and how he can use it for his own gain. And as for Mal, I think that even though, to me, he came across as a huge douchebag in the beginning of the book, he probably always loved her. They grew up together and he took her presence for granted until she was no longer there and then he probably really realized what his feelings for her were. And as for everyone else in the book, I think that they all liked her just because they wanted to be friends with the Sun Summoner.

Except Genya, I think Genya likes Alina because Alina sees her as a person and treats her like a friend. I really liked Genya.

Anyway, so yeah, I really liked Alina. I found her to be really relatable. I appreciated that she didn't act like she always knew what was going on. I enjoyed that she made mistakes and ended up making some really tough decisions. I loved how she overcame everything. I thought she grew a lot in this book. I really enjoyed reading about her.

In the beginning, I thought that Mal was kind of a douchebag, as I mentioned above. I didn't really see the appeal of him AT FIRST. He seemed to be looking at other girls when he had a perfectly wonderful girl right in front of him that he never even saw until she was gone. But I decided that I was firmly team Mal at the part where he tells her he sees her now, right before they find the white stag. Ahhhhhhh... I love how he regrets not doing anything to get her back when she was taken by the Grisha after she revealed her power and tries to do whatever he thinks he can to help her. He tracks the white stag because he knows it's for her and then when his assignment changes to tracking her, he does just that and then runs away with her and tries to find her the stag still. I love the relationship that they have. I love when they are rekindling that friendship/something more after he finds her. 

When the Darkling was introduced, I didn't really see what was so bad about him. He seemed like a genuine guy, all sad about the Shadow Fold and wanting Alina's help to destroy it and what not. And I was very happy about the kissing scenes. I DID think it was weird that he never really acted all that excited about kissing her though. I think he just wanted to make out with her sun summoning ability. Buuut then I saw his true colors and I was glad that she ran away. I really didn't find him to be all that villainous though, to be honest. I mean, yeah, he's not good. But I mean, there are definitely worse villains out there. At this point he kinda sounds like he just wants to use his Shadow Fold to force peace on all the warring countries. Things COULD be worse, but at the same time, he's probably got worse things up his sleeve. I don't know yet. We'll see.

I enjoyed the writing of this book. I enjoyed the story and the plot. I liked all the characters. I can't think of anyone in this book that I didn't like. I can think of one thing that I didn't like about this book at all...

I KNEW Alexei was gonna get snatched by a volcra in the beginning. I knew it. I knew he wasn't gonna make it through the Shadow Fold. I liked him in the brief time that he was around in the story. Poor Alexei didn't stand a chance.

I'm really excited to see what happens in the rest of this series! I would highly recommend this book if you're into fantasy. I really just think that I have a thing for books where the characters have any kind of power. So if you also have this kind of thing, read this book!


  1. YAY you read it! I'm so happy that you like it. Totally agree that The Darkling doesn't really love her but the Darkling fans think Alina and her are OTP. Can't wait to see what you think about the others books =)

    1. I don't even see how they could be OTP! I have a review posting soonish for Siege and Storm and I'm just going to be starting Ruin and Rising probably today!

  2. "I think he just wanted to make out with her sun summoning ability." <--- HAHA I love this so much xD

    I really enjoyed the world building and the plotting of this book. Leigh's writing is totally absorbing, yet her characters weren't my favorite. I loved the enigmatic Darkling. I didn't like the Alina transformation part though, it was too trope-y as you said. Lovely review, I hope you continue the series, my favorite character shows up in book 2 :)

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

    1. Haha! That was the best way to describe it, I think! I really did like the characters. I thought they were all pretty great, but I definitely know who your favorite character has to be and he is definitely one of mine as well! He's so funny and awesome!


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