Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Cover of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

“The problem with wanting,” he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, “is that it makes us weak.”

The once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, an area of impenetrable darkness where flesh eating monster roam. Alina Starkov, a mapmaker in the first army has been chosen to make a crossing to the other side of the fold, but when their convoy is attacked, Alina manifests a hidden power to save at least some of them from death. Alina is then taken away from her post to the capital to train with the Grisha, a magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. However, everything is not all it seems and Alina is going to have to learn how to navigate the politics between the Grisha, the royals, and the religious leaderships of her country while learning how to control her newfound powers.

Before you think that I have been hiding under a random rock, I did in fact read this series closer to when they were released, but I recently re-read them as something easy and light since I’ve had quite a reading slump recently. This series is easy to read crack basically. It’s compulsively readable, has some divisive characters, and has a plot that overall is interesting enough to keep you reading without being so complicated that you have to really give it all of your concentration.

This book is compulsively readable; however, this isn’t necessarily a fast-paced book. It has it’s moments to be sure, but since there is a steep learning curve section for Alina at the Grisha school, there is definitely a slower section. However, something that could have been improved for me, is the world-building. Her world is definitely a “hollow iceberg” where it looks like it is a really richly developed world at first glance, but is lacking upon closer inspection. For example, almost everyone wears kefta, but I’ve notice that based on fanart that everyone has a different vision of what they look like. There is a fairly vague description in this book, but I’m not sure that it’s ever addressed again.

The characters in this book are a bit divisive. Each character has people who love them and hate them. Alina is overshadowed by a lot of the other characters, especially the Darkling. The Darkling has legions who love him and quite a large group who hate him. I personally enjoy reading about him, but I can admit that there are some problems with how he interacts with other characters. I would say more, but I don’t actually want to give in spoilers for the people jumping on this bandwagon before the Netflix series.

Lastly, since this is a YA series, the plot is fairly easy to follow, with just enough intrigue to keep you going. This is something that I appreciate as the series continues too, because it adds more layers and the backstory and world-building fills out a little more. This is great for someone looking to be immersed in a series and read quickly and for fun. The plot isn’t so obvious that everyone will see it coming, but Leigh Bardugo leaves enough breadcrumbs that it is possible to pick up some hints at the different ways that it will go.

Overall, I would recommend this for fans of YA fantasy, entertaining villains, and Russia inspired setting. I’m not sure if it is the best YA fantasy series that I’ve ever read, but it is one of the few that I re-read on occasion. However, I will say that if you’re looking for a series inspired by Russia, but you’re perhaps leaning more towards the adult genre I would recommend The Bear and the Nightingale. Also, I’m not sure if you’re going to need to read this before the Netflix series, but it couldn’t hurt and you do not need to read this in order to read Six of Crows. However, there are a lot of little fun things that link the two series.

Have you read Shadow and Bone? Do you like Alina? Do you like the Darkling? Are you excited about the Netflix series? Let me know down below!

Cover of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Important Bits:
Length: 358 pages
Published: June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Company
Content Warning: Violence, Emotional Abuse, Hunting, Religious Fervor
Awards: South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Junior Book (2015), Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Young Adults (2014), Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee (2015), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2014), Lincoln Award Nominee (2014)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2012), Prix for Meilleur roman fantasy traduit Jeunesse (2013)
The Shadow and Bone Trilogy: Shadow and Bone (2012), Siege and Storm (2013), Ruin and Rising (2014)
Also by:  Six of Crows (2015), Crooked Kingdom (2016), King of Scars (2019), Ninth House (2019), and The Lives of Saints (2020), Rule of Wolves (2021)

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