Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

shadowandboneNovel Facts:

Plot:

The novel takes place in the land of Ravka (modeled after Russia) and follows the point of view of Alina Starkoff. We discover her in the beginning of the novel as an orphan who is forced to grow up in a war ravaged land with her best friend, Mal. (Soon to be hunkie). Ravka is plagued by the Fold, a scary strip of darkness that split the land in half and filled with monsters called the Volcra who eat human flesh. (I meant it when I said scary). Alina and Mal have to cross the Fold with their troop where they are attacked and the reader (and Alina) learn that Alina is a Sun Summoner. (If that term was not clear it means that she can summon the light of the sun and use it to her will).

This means she is Grisha now. Grisha are people with power- a specialized power. There are many types of Grisha and depending on their power determines the more important the Grisha. The Darkling (get ready to swoon ladies) is considered to be the most important. He has many powers and is the leader of all Grisha. The Darkling has Alina taken to the Little Palace to be trained believing that she is the key to save Ravka (no pressure). Alina enters a life she has never known and as she and the Darkling become closer, Alina finds that she soon must make a choice that will forever determine the fate of Ravka (dramatic gasp).

Review of the Characters:

Alina Starkoff: She was the typical 15-year-old protagonist girl caught in a love triangle that has to also save the world. I didn’t feel a connection to Alina as she wasn’t real to me, except for the fact that she was desperate to fit in, very typical 15-year-old girl. Other than that Alina had no quirks or depth to make her a living, breathing human being; though there was a brief moment of humanity for Alina. It was the part when she and Mal are on the run and after escaping robbers are caught in a fit of giggles.This was endearing because she may be one of the most powerful Grisha in all of Ravka, but at the end of the day she is still a 15-year-old girl with a school-girl crush on her best friend. (That makes a girl silly). Now, I am eager to examine Alina in the second novel, Siege and Storm, to see if her personality breaks out. I’ve found that in the first novel of a series, especially in a fantasy series when everything is new and unfamiliar, the persona of the protagonist is a little bland. Once we get to the second novel the author won’t have to explain the world as much, so Alina just yet might surprise us.

Mal Oretsev: (Sigh). Oh Mal. I really was not expecting to like him because I knew that I would definitely love the Darkling, and usually in a love triangle I am very one-sided. This was not the case with Mal. (He won me over like a big bowl of ice cream) The author did a great job of not making the love triangle one-sided, as in she didn’t make one guy obviously the prime choice. Although the reader didn’t spend much time with Mal in this novel we get a feel for him right away. He’s the suave ladies man with great charisma. Also, many readers might disagree, but I really liked that Mal didn’t realize his feelings for Alina until she was gone because again, it was very real. He very much reminds me of Flynn Ryder (a.k.a. Eugene Fitzherbert) from Tangled, he possesses that certain charm that is hard to resist.

The Darkling: As soon as I found out that the Darkling was tall, dark and handsome, I liked him. However with that said, I feel  that the author did not go deep enough. Listen (before everyone turns on me), I love a good-looking bad guy as much as anybody (probably more) but there is always a reason a person is the way they are, and the reader didn’t get that from the Darkling. A good example of this would be Will Herondale from the Infernal Devices trilogy. Will was tall, dark, handsome and definitely had a mean streak- but there was a reason for that. If the antagonist is not written well it really brings the novel down a notch and this was the case for Shadow and Bone. Like Alina, I’m hoping the second novel with shed more light on the Darkling (because I really, really, really want him to become all that he can).

Review on the Setting:

I was really intrigued by the world of Ravka. It’s very obvious that the author was inspired by the early ages of Russia. (And very cool). I love fantasy worlds, (that makes me sound a little crazy) it’s always neat to study something new and mystical. I especially love that feeling of being a human encyclopedia on such topics; so you can imagine my excitement about Ravka, but in my eyes the author fell short. The author was very ambitious, she had created a world that felt real and that was both fun and exciting to read. My complaint is that it was a little bit too much of information overload. Right at the beginning of the novel the reader learns all of this new information and it becomes confusing (especially with all of the Russian terms). Not only are we getting so many facts but then the author doesn’t go into depth about them leaving the reader hanging. For instance when Alina is learning about Grisha theory the reader doesn’t get anything, I would have loved to have learned more on that subject. Even with the Grisha I feel that the reader was left wanting. For a first novel in a fantasy series I expected to learn more about the world and even though it was intriguing, it was disappointing.

Review on the Writing:

The book started off in third person but then four pages later switched to first person, which I consider an easy (lazy) way of writing. However while this novel can be found in the fantasy shelf it is also most certainly found on the young adult shelf, which is a big fan of the first person point of view. With that said I feel the author did a good job besides the point about the characters and setting already discussed (or read in your case). She has a great story idea and when it comes down to it, that is the essence of a novel.

Rating:

I’m always nervous about picking up a new book in which I am unfamiliar with the author  (its risky business) but I would say that this one was worth it. First off, it gave us what most girls want, a dark prince (blond just doesn’t do it). Even though the love triangle was not original it was fun to read. Again, the backdrop of the story was very intriguing especially the idea of the Fold. Even without monsters a pitch black place sounds scary enough. (You can tell I slept with a night-light). This is Bardugo’s first novel which is exciting as it’s a great start to the novel world. While I wouldn’t yet place Leigh Bardugo with the greats, she shows promise.

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Overall Rating:

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P.S.- My next read is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (I’m nervous)

In the meantime check out these great reviews:

http://sophyanempire.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-stieg-larsson-alfred-a-knopf-2008-translated-by-reg-keelandaudible-audio-edition-narrator-simon-vance/

http://bookwormsfancy.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/author-interview-j-leigh/

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