Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is the first book of a The Grisha, a YA fantasy trilogy that follows narrator Alina Starkov as she tries to master her powers as the Sun Summoner and destroy the Shadow Fold, a mysterious stretch of land clouded by shadows and infected with savage creatures called volcra. The Shadow Fold separates the country of Ravka from its ports, weakening it and making an easy target for the surrounding enemies to pick apart at will.
This is the first Leigh Bardugo book that I’ve ever read. It provides a refreshing fantasy world with a slew of engaging characters. The writing is slick and the story entertaining. I read it in a few sittings, in huge chunks at a time.
The magic in a fantasy book is important, and the Grisha in this one do a fabulous job of providing it. Grisha are bit like magicians, in some of the feats that they can perform, but at their core, they are more like scientists. They can each manipulate a specific type of matter (metal, fire, wind, water, living matter, specifically people) down on a miniscule level, and they refer to it as the Small Science. Alina is the only one of the Grisha that can control light, and her counterpart, the leader of the Grisha, can control darkness and shadows. His name, rightly so, is the Darkling.
The Darkling is one of the things that made this book as excellent as it was. He is a complex character with intriguing motivations. Personally, he was one of the most fascinating characters throughout the entire novel, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series to see what else will happen with him.
At one point, a plot twist skews the readers entre perspective of one of the characters and provides another layer of depth between them and Alina, that tugged at my already intrigued mind just a bit more.
Near the end of the novel, a scene between her and her childhood friend pulled a few tears from my eyes, and produced the emotional responses that all good books should for their readers.
However now that we’ve discussed the positives, we have to discuss the negatives. Alina falls into one the tropes that I cannot stand. Throughout most of the book she has that perpetual “I don’t deserve anybody/how could anybody fall in love with me” attitude. It’s unrealistic and degrading. Most of, though, it’s completely overused. I was disappointed by its presence in the novel because the rest of it had kept me entertained and been fairly enjoyable. Overall, the presence of that single trope shaved off about half of a star.
Overall, I give this book a 3.5/5 stars.