March 27, 2015

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

“I've been waiting for you a long time, Alina" He said. "You and I are going to change the world.”

The Book Rest - Book Review for Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoTitle: Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: A
Recommended For: fans of Throne of Glass, The Young Elites, Red Queen
Source: Library hardback copy

One-sentence review: A fast-paced, exciting story that allows the reader to grow in real time with heroine, Alina, while navigating through one of the most vivid worlds I've read in recent YA lit.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

In Leigh Bardugo's Russian-influenced kingdom of Ravka, the world contained within the pages of Shadow and Bone, people are either normal or born with supernatural powers, also known as Grisha. At a young age, orphaned best friends Alina and Mal are tested to see if they have special powers but neither of them are Grisha. As adults, Alina and Mal are drafted into the First Army and must cross the Shadow Fold, a near impenetrable stretch of darkness inhabited by hungry monsters who feast on human flesh. When Mal is attacked, Alina discovers a dormant power and saves his life. She is quickly whisked away to live and train as a Grisha in the Little Palace with the Darkling himself, the most powerful Grisha leader. Alina has been a nobody her whole life and now she might be the only hope of the nation to help the Darkling defeat the Shadow Fold.

I picked up this book because my new favorite author goddess, Sarah J. Maas, always mentions Leigh Bardugo in her acknowledgements so I knew this Bardugo character had to be something special! And she is! Bardugo's talent of weaving an epic fantasy story is so similar to Maas that I became a quick fan of the Grisha world.

At first I was a little put off by the familiar story of the poor, boring girl who finds out she's one-in-a-million because of some supernatural power. However, Bardugo's world-building, masterful writing and vivid character development quickly won me over. The fast pace of this story made it a surprisingly quick read. Even the more predictable elements were made forgivable because they're written in such a smart way that you don't care if you saw them coming; the story is somehow still satisfying. It may be a story written for a YA audience, but Bardugo's mature use of language and situations surpass the genre.

Initially I wasn't very impressed by bland, boring Alina. But I quickly learned that I wasn't supposed to be because that was the point. As Alina grows and develops, we get to see it first hand. She becomes more complex and interesting, making mistakes along the way but also learning to believe in herself in real time with the reader learning to believe in her. Similarly, Mal and the Darkling are as interesting to analyze as we learn more about them and their growing relationships to Alina.

As with all YA books these days, Bardugo includes a sort of love triangle, but it's unlike any I've seen before (except maybe Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me triangle!). Without giving too much away to ruin the experience, it's very satisfying and not overdone in the way of so many sugary YA love triangles. I didn't feel guilty for my feelings and I felt like my experience was more in-line with Alina's than in other romances.

Shadow and Bone was an excellent beginning to what I expect to be one of my new favorite series. Remember when I didn't consider myself a fan of fantasy? I think I officially am required to rescind that notion. With the majority of books I've read so far this year being high fantasy (and loving it!), the Grisha world has converted me and I am so excited to continue Alina's story with the rest of this series!

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