Friday, August 17, 2012
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Grisha Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., 2012
Read for: Fun
Alina Starkov lives an unextraordinary life. Orphaned at a young age in the border wars that ravage her Russia-like fantasy country of Ravka, she was raised in an orphanage in a duke's home and now serves in Ravka's army as a mediocre mapmaker. In fact, the only extraordinary thing in Alina's life is Mal, her childhood best friend who has lately become very attractive (but unfortunately not attracted). However, when the army attempts to cross the Shadow Fold, a dark, dangerous, magically created stretch of land filled with vicious creatures called volcra, Alina accidentally reveals a talent that means she could be either the salvation or the downfall of all Ravka.
I heard nothing but raves about Shadow and Bone, and I was even more excited to read it when I met its fabulous author, Leigh Bardugo, at the Fierce Reads tour (seriously, if you get a chance to attend a signing or something by this author, take advantage, because she is extremely cool). I was not disappointed.
One of the most notable things about Shadow and Bone is the world-building. Ravka is reminiscent of Russia, with an oppressive government and a similar sounding language (bear in mind I know little about Russia). However, it also has many fantastical elements -- the dark and deadly Shadow Fold, of course, and the Grisha, a caste of magically talented individuals with complicated gradations of ability and ranking. To be honest, at times I felt that Shadow and Bone was short, I think because most of the fantasy books I have read have been 500+ pages, but despite the shorter length, the world felt complete and rich. There is definitely more to discover, but I am confident these mysteries will be delineated more in the future books of the trilogy.
The world-building couldn't have been accomplished without Bardugo's beautiful prose. The images in Shadow and Bone are dark and dazzling -- there are stunning descriptions of the scenery, the clothes of the Grisha, the lifestyle in the army. While at times I felt that I wasn't getting as much information as I am used to with fantasy novels, the descriptions Bardugo gives count. They are vivid and lyrical, and left me wanting more while feeling completely wrapped up in Alina's world.
I also loved Alina. She is down-to-earth, not becoming overly swayed by her new-found status and life of luxury. While there are moments in the book that she is confused by the appearances of her new life, for the most part she hangs onto her own identity and values, trusting herself when everything else in her life seems cloudy and confusing. I think that frequently YA literature leaves something to be desired as far as good role models for teens go -- Alina presents someone who is believable and not too much of a goody-goody while still acting as an individual that can be respected and admired. We need more of that in the YA genre and I was thrilled to find it in Shadow and Bone.
I think my favorite part of this story is the love story. I don't want to give anything away, because it was an aspect of the book I was guessing about through much of the beginning. But just be aware that the love story is sweet and epic and satisfying, with several heart-stopping moments. And read it so you can experience it for yourself.
If you haven't gathered that I adored Shadow and Bone, let me lay it out plainly for you -- it is a fantastic novel. I am looking forward to the next volume in the Grisha Trilogy.
Warnings: Innuendo, violence