Reviewed by: Jannelle
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
After growing up in an orphanage in Ravka, Alina Starkov and her best friend Mal have become soldiers in service for their country. After The Grisha, the magical ruling government in Ravka, fail to find any magic within Mal or Alina, Mal becomes a military tracker and Alina works to become a studying cartographer for the army.
While Mal becomes an expert in his field, Alina struggles as she always has, stumbling behind Mal and falling hopelessly in love with her handsome and popular best friend. On an assignment through the Shadow Fold, a demon-filled darkness that divides Ravka, their caravan is attacked by monsters—volcra. All of a sudden, Alina has powers she had buried long ago and is quickly the most important person in all of Ravka.
This changes Alina’s entire life—and most importantly to her, her relationship with Mal. Alina is pulled from her cartography career into the heart of The Grisha, questioning everything she has even been taught, and discovering who she truly is along the way.
I love books about self-discovery. And no, I don’t mean that in the self-help kind of way, but the “oh crap, I have super powers” kind. I know we see that semi-often in the YA paranormal and fantasy genred books, but Leigh Bardugo does it incredibly well.
Magic discovery aside, Alina transforms from beginning to end of this first installment and I cannot wait to see what we can expect from her in future novels. One of my favorite components of a novel are the supporting characters and those in Shadow and Bone are incredibly dynamic, with stories of their own. The Darkling, for example, has an extensive and mysterious background that creates intrigue enough to leave me craving for glimpses of his past.
If you haven’t picked it up yet, there is a total love triangle happening between the pages. While things ended… a very particular way, I am hoping Alina will be open-minded enough to search for the right truth in the following books. I won’t say whose team I’m on because even I’m confused after this one. Do any of you have a preference? I always loved a good mystery.
You don’t have to be a YA fan to love Shadow and Bone. The world-building is thorough and multifaceted to create a rich backdrop to Alina’s story. The Russian layer added to that backdrop creates a supplementary layer of history and significance to her fantastical world. The characters in this war-driven world have had to grow up quickly, and the novel reads as such, lending itself to an older audience.
The only factor that slowed my love was the steady plot that dipped along the way. Of course, that was not deterrent enough to prevent me from continuing to read. Also, it’s normal for series openers to take bit longer getting to the good stuff with epic world building and character intros.
Honestly, I can’t say this enough: do yourself a favor and pick up Shadow and Bone. It’s one of the best YA novels I have read in a long time and I love that I have two more books in the trilogy that I get to enjoy.
Sexual content: kissing