The once-great nation of Ravka is being devastated by the Shadow Fold, a rip in the kingdom filled with darkness and monsters who feast on human flesh.
Alina Starkov is an orphan, a mapmaker in the King’s army, no one special. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her only and closest friend is injured, she reveals a dormant power that saves his life. Taken away by the Grisha and their mysterious leader, The Darkling, Alina might be able to save the whole kingdom. This is the first book in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.
I could’ve used more of the world in this book. I had a bit of trouble understanding the whole structure of the kingdom of Ravka. I think it’s slightly Russian inspired. I knew the Grisha were like an above class with powers, but I didn’t get much from the king and the country’s relationship with the other countries. Additionally, I had a bit of trouble understanding the Fold. I got that it was dangerous, dark, bad, and had creatures but just I had a bit of trouble visually understanding it.
That being said, I really did like the magic of this world. Grishas have super interesting abilities. Sometimes though we get clued in on their powers by info dumping, it’s a little excusable because it’s because someone is explaining something to Alina because she just doesn’t know it.
I just wanted more, but in a subtle way. This is not a comment on Leigh Bardugo’s writing style though. I think her writing is rich, entertaining, and engaging. I got sucked in. And while sometimes I wanted to get to what’s next I can say the pacing was done well.
Character-wise I have lots of feelings.
Alina is both relatable and typical. I’m okay with typical sometimes (like female character finding out about some dormant power she has or secretly being in love with her best friend). But what I wasn’t okay with how typical-teeny Alina could act sometimes. She’d get very focused on who to sit with or looks, and I connect with that but like by the halfway point of the book I just wanted her to move on.
I do love her power. She’s a Sun Summoner, meaning she can create and project light. She’s also the first Sun Summoner in like forever, which makes her special. Alina’s power becomes apparent when she’s trying to save Mal, her best friend since childhood and crush, on the battlefield.
I didn’t like Mal at first. He’s presented as not really being as devoted to Alina as she is to him. She’s kind of a side friend for him. He’s arrogant and a little too busy chasing after other girls. But the more time I got to spend with him on page the more I warmed up to him. He’s fiercely loyal and very caring. There is good rapport and chemistry between him and Alina as well, which made the scenes between them enjoyable.
Genya added a bit of lightheartedness to the story, but her storyline was still pretty serious. She is a Grisha and very beautiful, it is part of her power to enhance people’s beauty. Because of this she is basically a slave to the Queen. She’s really the first and only friend Alina has once she starts her training. I really enjoyed their moments of banter.
And finally, The Darkling. He’s this almost all powerful Grisha. I had such mixed feelings with him throughout the novel. Like I wasn’t always even sure how I was supposed to feel about him, or why other characters felt certain ways about him. He’s very complex. That’s all I’m going to say because I fear otherwise I’ll be spoiler-y.
I know I had some “serious” sounding critiques of this novel, but I really did enjoy it and honestly couldn’t put it down. I definitely suggest picking it up if you’re looking for a unique fantasy. Shadow and Bone is available on Amazon and you can find the author at leighbardugo.com. Give it a read and let me know what you think in the comments. Plus leave recommendations for my next book!