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
The Plot and Writing
I loved how Shadow and Bone started out. I first got a look into Alina and Mal's childhood, which I think was important because it showed how close they were when they were young. Then I was thrown into the story and right off the bat, I was confronted with action. I got to see how much Alina cared for Mal, and how her love for him brought out this unique and rare power of hers. Some might say that the pacing of this book was a little fast paced, but I actually loved how action oriented and plot driven the story was. The story's pacing coincides with how hectic Alina's life became in such a short time, and I really liked how everything flowed.
On top of the constant action, I really loved the sudden twists that appeared in the story. There were only a few twists that occurred, but they were big enough to shock the hell out of me. They left me staring at the book like an idiot thinking "say what now?”. Those twists and surprises pushed me to read as fast as I could to try and figure out what Alina would do and how she would handle the revelations.
What really captivated me about this book, in addition to other things, was the writing. I loved the lyrical descriptions of the scenery and people. It really helped me place myself inside the story and made it all come alive inside my head. The writing style is amazing, and it really pulled me into the story.
The characters in Shadow and Bone were also amazing. They were full of surprises, and they were so dynamic. Of course, my favorite of all the characters was Alina. I loved how unorthodox she was. She wasn’t like most heroines that I see too much of where she was extremely beautiful, perfect at everything, not shy at all around the men she liked, and who always seemed to have her stuff together. Alina was the opposite of the heroines I usually see in books. She was slow to learn how to use her powers, which made me surprisingly happy because she wasn't automatically an awesome wielder of power. It took time for her to learn how to use her power, and I really liked that. In addition to that, she had a hard time learning to fight properly, she was scrawny with dark circles under her eyes and always tired, and even though she usually wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, she became a mess around the Darkling, which was adorable. Most people wouldn't like these traits, but I actually really love them. Bardugo wrote Alina in such a way that she was lovable and relatable even in a fantasy setting. I love how real Alina was in terms of her often disheveled appearance and inability to immediately be perfect at everything. These so called 'flaws', which really aren't flaws to me, made me love her character even more.
Then we had the Darkling. I have to admit that I thought I would love the Darkling as soon as he was introduced. I am such a sucker for the dark and mysterious types that I was a goner from the start, but I knew he was too good to be true. Bardugo really played with my emotions by creating the Darkling. At first, he was amazing, and I was ready to claim him as my book boyfriend, but then he really showed his true colors....but even then I still felt like he was a good person. The Darkling was such a confusing and enchanting character that I had to applaud Bardugo for creating him. By the end of the book, I was extremely confused about the Darkling and what he was really like, that confusion about him drove me to immediately go out and buy the next book.
I have to say that the hint of romance that could’ve happened between Alina and the Darkling really pushed me to continue the story. I loved the dark, mysterious, and supposedly evil characteristics of the Darkling, and mixed with Alina's flustered yet strong willed nature, they seemed like an explosive pairing that I was totally rooting for.
Then we have Mal, who I didn't really like in the beginning because I felt like he was too oblivious to Alina and a little too cocky for my liking, but by the end of the book, my view had completely changed. By the end of the book, I was in love with Mal, and now I'm just confused. The Darkling was the epitome of my favorite book boyfriend in the beginning of the book, but then Mal realized what was right in front of him all this time aka Alina, and NOW IM CONFLICTED.
The Wrap Up
However, this wonderful book isn't just about romance although I would still be extremely happy if it was. It's also focused on strong character development and a great story that will make you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. In the story, Alina took control of her power and learned that she was the only one who could wield it. She became this strong character who was determined to save her world. Whereas before, she didn't think she amounted to anything. She grew to be confident in herself way before she learned how to wield her power, and I liked that about the story and her.
This review was surprisingly hard for me to write because there was so much I wanted to say, but once I started writing it down, my mind would jump to something else I wanted to say, which is why this review seems all over the place to me. That just goes to show you how flustered this book made me. If you take anything away from this review let it be that I loved this book and its characters, and I cannot wait to read the next book! I might have a new favorite series on my hands. I give Shadow and Bone five out of five stars!