Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy)

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Leigh Bardugo = Awesome Sauce
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
I love epic fantasy and I also love Russian things. While not set in the real Russia, Shadow and Bone's setting is very Russia-like. The country is Ravka. The fantasy elements are incredibly cool, with the Grisha powers ranking almost Cashore level of original (which is as high as it gets). The Shadow Fold and the volcra, too, are so creepy and fascinating.

Speaking of creepy and fascinating, I have to talk about the Darkling. From the first scene where he appeared, he totally captured me, even though I was pretty sure he was a terrible guy. Seriously, he is like majorly alluring. I don't know whether I should root for him or not, because he's got this whole evil dictator vibe, but also seems like he might be better deep down. I don't usually go for bad boys (although that seems a bit mild for the Darkling), but wow.

Of course, he's not the only man candy in this book. Yes, there is a love triangle, but I declare myself okay with this one, so no worries. The other guy is Mal, Alina's childhood friend, who she's been hopelessly in love with for ages. I have to say that I was pretty much immediately into him as well, mostly because his name is Mal. In my head, I see Malcolm Reynolds, so he has to be awesome.

Alina starts out pretty weak, although still with some serious gumption. It was an utter pleasure watching her grow and discover herself. I also really liked the way she changed as she came into her powers. Bardugo has written such a wonderful metaphor for what subverting your real self does to you. By the end of the book, Alina is a definite heroine.

What I hate about this book is knowing how long I probably have to wait for more! The ending of Shadow and Bone isn't a cliffhanger, but there's still tons that needs to be resolved and waiting is going to be painful. I need to procure a copy of this for myself, and so do you!
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Shadow And Bone / The Gathering Dark
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
(Note: I received the UK version of Shadow And Bone for review which is called The Gathering Dark)

ISBN: 9781780621104
Publisher: Indigo
Pages: 442

A dark heart. A pure soul. A love that will last forever.

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

I received The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo from Indigo for review, which I absolutely LOVED reading! My favourite characters were Alina and Mal. Inseparable since they became childhood friends at the orphanage, Alina and Mal start to slowly grow apart. Mal befriends others of the same status as himself within the Army, whilst Alina in turn, makes a few friends of her own as well as becoming more independent, in her position as cartographer’s assistant. Alina was one of my favourite characters because despite her small stature, she is quite fiery, stubborn and determined. Mal was one of my favourite characters because of his amazing hunting and tracking abilities as well as his caring nature. I absolutely LOVED reading about the fashion in Ravka! The descriptions of not only the surrounding landscapes and residents of Ravka, but also the fashions of each class were amazing! I also really liked reading about the Grisha culture alongside Alina, as she learnt about it herself. Although I like the cover of The Gathering Dark, I prefer the cover of my ARC copy due to its simple, floral patterns and bold colour scheme of purple, black & white.
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Phenomenal Pacing, Plot & Characters!
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Shadow and Bone is...."unlike anything I've ever read" (Veronica Roth). I truly cannot come up with a better way to describe my reading experience - I loved the characters, I was honestly shocked during the plot twists and I found myself completely immersed in the world that Bardugo had created. While reading I felt frustrated, angry, hopeful, heartbroken and days later, I'm still thinking about Shadow and Bone and how it elicited those feelings from me.

A light fantasy, Bardugo manages to give you just enough information to fully capture your attention, without being overwhelming, and is very much of the "show, don't tell" camp. I absolutely loved gleaning new bits of Ravka history or Grisha mythology from casual interactions, rather then in big info-dump sessions or the extremely forward ask-and-tell conversations. I do like my fantasy a little meatier, so I would have enjoyed more history and more mythology, but the amount provided was sufficient to understand Ravka and its inhabitants, while keeping you on the edge of your seat, eager for more! Reading the eBook, I would have also loved a map, so I am beyond thrilled to announce that there will be a map, illustrated by Keith Thompson, included in print editions.

The plot was probably one of the best-paced plots I've encountered in YA. I was so caught up in everything that was happening, so concerned about the characters I had grown to love, that I was completely blind-sided - twice! - by plots twists. I was so enamoured by Shadow and Bone that I wasn't having to stop and think about whether anything made sense so I wasn't being constantly pulled out of the fantasy world Bardugo had so elegantly crafted.

And elegantly craft she did. Everything is described in such vivid imagery that it was impossible for me not to cringe as I watched Alina enter the Shadow Fold to meet with the Volcra waiting within it's impenetrably dark clutches, or to gasp as the Darkling clapped his hands together to produce the tendrils of darkness that consumed all light, or to be completely awed when Alina broke down all of her walls, in order to release her inner brilliance.

I felt passionately about each character in Shadow and Bone - The Darkling, who's cool demeanour was shattered when he let something amuse him, and who ultimately broke my heart and stole my breath away; the embodiment of mysteriousness and allure, he was nothing short of intoxicating. Mal, who's easy-going arrogance was quickly replaced with the hardened composure of someone who has made fatal mistakes, was a refreshing change as a love interest. I cursed him for so quickly over-looking what he could have had with Alina, and rejoiced when he admitted his foolishness. He won my heart with his fearlessness, both in his desire to keep Alina safe and with his attempt to convince her of his true feelings:

"I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I'd catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I'd seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I'd realize that you weren't there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I've risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me why we don't belong together," he said fiercely.

And Alina. Her character growth was astounding. When you first meet her, she is naive and feeble, convinced of her complete and total averageness. As she stumbled through her many and varied mistakes, it was an absolute pleasure to watch her grow into someone who possessed both self-assured confidence and grace.

Plain and simple, I loved Shadow and Bone. Yes, the fantasy could have been a little heavier, but that's mostly a personal preference. The pacing, plot and characters were all phenomenal and I will wait in anticipation for the sequel!
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My dream book come to life!
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is pretty much my dream book. Cultivated from the richness of the Russian language, and perhaps customs—though I’m not certain, this fantasy brings me joy beyond imagining. Leigh Bardugo is the map that leads us to the treasure trove, as each word is spun gold, each place are brilliant gems, but king among them is the diamond and perfect, dazzling shards are scattered to live in each character. Love is either dark temptation or a rightness that shone, and the romance is everything I thought I wouldn’t want and came to desperately need as I realized the rightness of this him and her that had been a package deal since the beginning. I thank Bardugo profusely for this gift she has crafted with talented hands and so much heart, leading me to clutch this book tightly for the treasure it is and silently curse the fates for an elusive sequel that is well out of reach.

It’s nerve-wracking to attempt to give an explanation as to why this novel is so necessary to everyone and their constantly-growing bookshelves. Especially since every moment is pure pleasure, a knife that cut through the fatigue I had been feeling with little effort behind the invisible hand that confidently wielded it. Boredom could not touch me; my interest remained unshakeable no matter the interruptions, such as a grumbling belly, tired eyes, and an angry bladder. Everything outside of magic lessons with ancient masters of the small sciences, battling against violent birdlike cannibals, and the whereabouts of a certain oblivious best friend and the secrets and mysteries of another who waits in the wings paled into pitiful insignificance. Bardugo’s world seduces us into a trance that allows us to truly see what has been tamed to paper.

Alina Starkov could be an annoying heroine, one whom our affection resists, but, in spite of how frustrating she can be, she is entirely relatable and wonderful, an honest creation that strikes down our reluctance with her loneliness and sacrifices and the unrequited love that has dominated her life for years now. Her presence, in the beginning, is often taken for granted, especially by the one person she loves more than anything, a man who has been her best friend for nearly as long as she can remember, and when brightness exposes her it is siphoned from a future where the two could remain inseparable. It’s painful, reading as Alina is brutally stripped from the only home she’s ever known, the only person she’s ever truly loved in just about every which way a person can love. Fear doesn’t take away her personality, but as her circumstances continue to lose light, in which she is forced out of anonymity and made to be an idol to depend on, her journey to herself pulls her away from the memory of what was, and that is agonizing and exhilarating all at once.

Accompanying Alina as she grows into and adopts the skin of the person she was always meant to be is more than enough to immerse us into her story, since she is a character that is understandable and is a magnet for compassion. Magic lessons, court politics, and assassins shadowing her footsteps are enough to keep anyone busy and engaged. And with this newfound life comes the presence of an enigmatic, all-powerful magical being that urges her to take to this new life, and has us and Alina sorely tempted to let ourselves be whisked away into the now compelling dark.

We come to play right into Bardugo’s hands as we are firmly caught in her iron web and shocked at the revelation. The mysteries we’ve been attempting to understand make sense for only a moment, before the outcome is rudely snatched away and turned on its head so that we are confused and appalled once more, because it’s impossible to prepare for a surprise blow like the one dealt to us. The sense of injustice is fierce, as we were left in the dark for so long and were less than clever enough to detect the truth. Although there is room for much more given the turn of events, Shadow and Bone ends in one final flawless swipe and we don’t even realize the story is truly over because we are already absently reaching for what should be next. It isn’t until we come up empty-handed that we realize our predicament: we are without the next chapter and will be forced to endure its absence until Bardugo is ready.

Looking for books with a similar feel? Try checking out Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones and Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken.

Originally posted at Paranormal Indulgence, 5/21
Good Points
my thoughts in a few sentences:Shadow and Bone is the book I couldn’t get out of my head once it arrived on my doorstep, the one I badly wanted to read, and all others I had tried to start suffered because of this hunger for a story that was not them. Finally, I gave up reluctance and waiting and picked it up on a late evening, and my eyes were dry, sore, and brutally red, but firmly aware, by the time I looked up from the final page only to note that dawn was coming. My internal clock didn’t feel the blows until long after because the story, even after the pages relented and Bardugo’s own siren song buried in her beautiful story, which had called me back, faded, my mind was still trapped in the memory of absorbing the events on each page. I haven’t been so thoroughly captured in a long time.
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