Tuesday, 20 June 2017

SHADOW AND BONE (The Grisha #1) - by Leigh Bardugo

SHADOW AND BONE - by Leigh Bardugo
Published: June 2012 - by Indigo.
Pages: 308.
Genres: Young adult / epic fantasy / romance
Source: Library.
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 buddy-read this book with the wonderful Di @ Book Reviews By Di. Since it's Leigh Bardugo, we ended up racing through it in under a week! Check out her review HERE.

My feelings are incredibly mixed. For more than half of the book I thought it'd end up being a 2.5 flower read for me, and that killed me. I loved Six of Crows SO SO MUCH that my expectations for this book were very high, to say the least, and eventually I just had to force myself not to compare them. This is Bardugo's debut novel, after all, and although I think Six of Crows is a million times better, this book isn't a bad start to a promising trilogy.
But I was still disappointed.

“I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”

The writing is mediocre, almost amateurish (although that feels sinful to say considering it's Leigh Bardugo). I didn't think first person worked at all, and I struggled to get into Alina's head. The narration is awkward and extremely dry, and there's too much of Alina saying "I felt" - instead of just going with the emotion. That infuriated me.

The world building is achingly limited. To put it metaphorically, if the Grisha world is a huge patchwork quilt this book feels like it's happening in only one of those tiny squares - it's distant, removed, and although it improves as the story progresses, by the end I still felt like I'd been given an extremely cramped and restricted view of the world.
However, I did love the nods to Russian folklore subtly intertwined into the story.  The Russian elements are rich and unique, and Bardugo clearly did her research.

Then there are the incidents in the novel. For most of the story, everything just seems like a petty non-event with little significance. There's no real drama. Every incident feels underwhelming and the stakes extremely weak - or at least weakly portrayed. BUT: it did improve a lot towards the end, and for the last half quarter of the book I was riveted. I'd never been bored, but towards the end everything got so much stronger.

“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.

The characters are okay. Bardugo manages to pull off the Chosen One trope, and I also loved how blunt, normal and average Alina was. (The only pitfall is the first person narration which I struggled to connect with.) I didn't love her character (she's too much of a damsel) but I didn't dislike her either. She's an ordinary, plain, flawed girl, and that appealed to me. I just wish she'd had more fire.
As for the other characters, most of them came across flat and even a bit stereotypical. The Darkling's supposed to be "the bad boy" but he really doesn't come across that dark or strong a character. Admittedly, at this stage there's still a lot of unknowns regarding his back story and character, but I just didn't find him very compelling or frightening.
The secondary characters easily fade into the background; however, I did love Genya. She's a clear, strong character, and I hope I'll see more of her in the second book.

The romance is beautiful. I definitely ship Mal and Alina, and their relationship arc is probably the strongest aspect of the book. It's beautiful, gut-wrenching, swoony and realistic. I loved them together, and had tears in my eyes towards the end when things got tough for them.

Shadow and Bone is a decent and original fantasy novel, but I struggled to connect through the first person narrative and found the writing and characters very unimpressive. 
But I loved the romance, and considering it's Bardugo, I have extremely high hopes for the second book! 


  1. Wonderful review as always Amy and thanks for being a most awesome buddy reader! We shared so many sentiments on this one and I can't wait to get started on Siege and Storm with you and Uma! Eeek!

    1. Thank you Di, and thank YOU! It was awesome <3
      Eeeek can't wait!

  2. Nice review, Amy! I can see how this being the author's first work, it might not be as polished. I love when a book really ramps up near the end to lead into the next installment. I definitely need to read some Leigh Bardugo!

    1. Thanks!
      Yeah absolutely - perfectly put :)
      You must! Six of Crows is amazing <3

  3. Oh my goodness, based on your review I thought I was going to scroll down and see a very low rating! Glad it somewhat redeemed itself and ended up getting a 3.5. I love hearing that the romance is a good one. I'm a sucker for romance. :) I hope the second book is even better!

    1. Lol, I guess it was a bit unbalanced!!
      Oh yeah, the romance is amazing :)
      Thanks Tanya, I hope so too!

  4. Awesome review! I'm so glad you liked Shadow and Bone :D Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors!

    Asma @ IceyBooks

    1. Thank you!
      Yes she's amazing, isn't she? :)

  5. I can't decide whether to read this series or not. I've already started the Six of Crows series and am loving that so far. Part of me wants to go back and learn more backstory about the Grisha but then I'm hesitant if the writing isn't as good as what I've seen in Six of Crows. Great review though!

    1. I'm not sure what to say, since I haven't finished this trilogy yet. But so far Six of Crows is a million times better, I think :) Glad you're loving it!
      Thank you!

  6. I tried this one a couple of years back but really didn't like it much and DNFed it. That sort of put me off when everyone was talking about Six of Crows but I have bought it and intend to try and read it next month.

    1. Ah no shame :( I actually felt like doing that at times... ;)
      Six of Crows is incredible! Hope you love that one!

  7. I'm sorry you didn't love this as much as Six of Crows but I'm glad it still had some redeeming features! :) Wonderful review! Will you read the rest of this series? :)

    1. Thanks Kyra! <3
      I will! I'm buddy reading with Di and Uma tomorrow :)

  8. oh wow, I have been meaning to reading this series and you have already read them? Gosh you are fast Amy

  9. Ah, I'm sorry to hear you had a hard time with this one.
    When it first came out, at the time, I absolutely LOVED it. I don't know if I had loved it the same way today but it was definitely one of my favorites then (:
    I didn't continue to the rest of the series though because I was spoiled about something I did not like.
    As of Six of Crows, I have yet to read it! *__*
    I actually read a sample of it but it was rather hard to get into and so I'm afraid to commit and be disappointed. Should I take that chance?


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