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Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: 1st book in The Grisha Trilogy
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source: ARC from publisher
When I picked up a copy of Shadow and Bone at ALA in January, I hadn’t the slightest inkling how much hype it would receive in the coming months. Once I did begin to hear whispers about how fabulous this book was, I was scared that it would be over-hyped as books so often are, and that I would walk away from the book, frustrated that it had not wowed me in the least bit. Two things I must get through my thick skull: 1) stop judging books by their covers because a pretty cover does not a pretty story make, and 2) let a book speak for itself, meaning stop listening to the rumors of awesomeness and reading the reviews that deem books unworthy.
In this particular case, the hype was justified. I read the book in about two days, though I could have sat and read it cover to cover if I’d had the opportunity. I was so swept away by this story, so engrossed in it, that I couldn’t even be bothered to take notes. But I personally think you should go into this story with low expectations so that you, too, can be completely blown away. It’s equal parts fantasy, romance, magic and destruction, and it’s 100% awesome.
Let’s start with the characters first, shall we? After all, they were what initially caught me off guard and continued to surprise me throughout the entirety of the novel. Of course, I have to make the obligatory mention of the handsome and powerful antagonist who shows just enough kindness to make me fall for him. This evil character is common enough, but the Darkling fits this description to a tee, much like Warner in Shatter Me. There’s just something about a bad guy who wants to exploit the beautiful, naïve protagonist but also has a soft spot for her. Even better when said protagonist is conflicted and MIGHT actually be falling for our villain. But Alina isn’t quite as naïve as she appears. She may have stumbled upon a hidden power, one she’s not yet sure how to control, but having grown up in an orphanage, she’s learned not to take everything at face value. Alina’s had a hard life, and it just keeps getting harder.
Alina does have one close confidant, one person she trusts more than anyone or anything: her fellow orphan and best friend, Mal. This guy takes the cake. He’s seen Alina through a lot, but when she needs him most, Mal seems to have found greener pastures. While she’s toiling away as a less-than-average mapmaker, Mal is proving himself a worthy tracker, rising in the ranks of the army. And he’s taken notice of a Grisha, completely oblivious to how Alina feels about him. I wanted to deck this guy for a good part of the book, but he does redeem himself later, so I’ll let it slide.
The world-building in this novel was incredible. Even without the help of the map you see below, I was able to accurately picture the layout of the land. The Fold is exactly as I imagined it, and I couldn’t imagine a more terrifying place. Devoid of light and inhabited by deadly creatures that would tear a man to shreds, attempting to cross means imminent death.
This novel is a debut, but you wouldn’t know that from the writing. The words are powerful and thoughtful and they weave a story that stretches the boundaries of one’s imagination. Despite the horrors in the novel, I found myself wanting to be transported to the world between the covers, to experience every hardship right along with Alina. Maybe if the story had been more predictable, I wouldn’t have wished for that, but not knowing where this book was headed made for an exhilarating ride, one which I expect I shall be hopping on again and again.