Synopsis: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in the Grishaverse trilogy. The book is a historical fantasy set in a world based on Russia. The characters are Alina Starkov, Malyen Oretsev, Darkling, Genya Safin, Zoya Nazyalensky and the setting is in a fictional place called Ravka.
Shadow and bone get off to a good start with its prologue where we encounter a pair of orphans -Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev(Mal)- who live in an orphan home in a duke’s estate. They are orphans who are refugees of war and are inseparable. So, what happens is, one day Grisha -who are adept at the use of magic- come to the estate to test the children for magical abilities. Alina discovers that there is something unusual about her, but after she realizes that she will be separated from Mal, she somehow conceals her abilities.
Fast forward to many years, we see Alina is now a young woman. At this point, the first chapter, we hear from Alina’s point of view. Alina is a mapmaker, and Mal is a tracker in Ravka’s first army. Alina describes herself as weak and drab next to her handsome friend Mal. We can also see that Alina has a crush on Mal, but Mal is oblivious.
Now starts the real trouble…Alina and Mal’s regiment has to cross Shadow Fold, a dark and magical space created centuries before by an evil, ambitious Grisha. Where once there was fertile land, farmers, and their families, now there is only a pitch dark wasteland inhabited by vicious flying monsters called volcra.
Alina’s worries about Mal are eclipsed by her fears about crossing the Shadow Fold, and rightly so because few people survive crossings through the Fold which divides Ravka, but these crossings are attempted nonetheless, to ferry essential products from east to west and back.
Their crossing is assisted by the Grisha who have magical abilities. As I had expected, their crossing is ill-fated as moments after crossing the Fold, their ship is attacked by the volcra. Most of the crew including Mal is hurt or snatched away to oblivion by the volcra. Alina passes out while keeping pressure on Mal’s wound.
After Alina wakes up, she is back in the town of Kribirsk, from which the army began the crossing. She is marched to the Darkling’s tent, and there the Darkling proves beyond doubt that Alina is a Sun Summoner, gifted with the ability to call forth light.
Alina is treated like a precious gem, as both the kingdom of Ravka including the Darkling have been waiting for the birth of a Sun Summoner who will liberate them from the clutches of Shadow Fold. Alina is quickly carted off to the palace, the Grisha’s stronghold, to be presented to the king as their salvation.
After arriving at the palace, Alina is overwhelmed by the beauty and the powers of all the Grisha who she encounters. She repeatedly reminds herself that she is neither beautiful nor as powerful as Ravka’s people believe. Alina is soon whisked off into training, where she is trained by Bahgra, an ancient Grisha, to practice her non-existent magical abilities and by a mercenary named Botkin, who teaches Alina to defend herself without using magic.
However, none of the training helps Alina because she is too weak. Alina continually doubts her powers until Bahgra claims that this is because Alina is spending nearly all her energy on fighting and suppressing her own ability. The Darkling is seen as the only one who believes in her. Alina is afraid of Darling but -strangely-is also attracted to him.
Alina is seen as a conflicted character, which is quite reasonable for a woman of her age. While being attracted to the Darkling, she is also yearning for Mal, who did not respond to any of her letters.
What we see next is a complete turnabout in the plot, and I will not spoil that for you. You will find answers to many questions: Is the Darking trustworthy? Will Alina remain in the Grisha household? Will she see Mal ever again? Why was Alina suppressing her powers?
I enjoyed the first few chapters very much. I was sucked into Alina’s world, the story of her discovery that she wasn’t an ordinary woman. I was also intrigued by the Darling character, who was morally ambiguous in his pursuit of freeing Ravka from the Shadow Fold. I don’t know what to feel about Mal, who was there in the end when Alina needed him but was absent before. The characters are flawed and multidimensional, which is what makes the story interesting. Now a huge BUT, the use of the Russian language was done wrong. From the use of the word Grisha to Alina’s surname, were wrong ! I was disappointed by this. I kept reading the book mainly due to the plot. There was no love triangle, which I was relieved about.
I would recommend the book, sure, but with some significant reservations. Alina is a passive character, her strength did show in some parts and then fizzles out in some. I also have a massive disappointment because of *spoiler* (which is related to Alina’s love interest ) took a wrong turn.
Much to my disappointment, I didn’t love the book. I hope that the next two books bring Alina’s character strength up several notches. Whether my hope became true or not, I will discuss after reading Siege and Storm, the second book in the trilogy.
Verdict: This one gets 3 out of 5 stars from me.
Author: Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over two million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns—with more to come. (To hear about new releases, tour dates, and giveaways first, sign up for Leigh’s newsletter here.) Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. She would be delighted if you followed her on Twitter, elated if you visited her website, and fairly giddy if you liked her selfies on Instagram.
**Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: January 2013
Paperback: 416 Pages
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