Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Audible Studios, Henry Holt and Co. on November 30, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 8 hours 55 minutes
I’ve been eyeing this series for months, ever since Jessica @ Rabid Reads listed it as one of her top five young adult novels. Seeing as every other book she’s recommended and I’ve read I’ve loved, I knew I needed to read this. And though it took me a lot longer than I would have liked, I’m glad I finally got to Shadow and Bone.
Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they're sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.
When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.
Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling's favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina discovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her... and only she can save the future.
In some ways, its predictable – which is why it wasn’t quite five stars for me. How many times have you read about the girl who seems plain, unexciting, and always in the background, but finds out that she’s special – has some ability that makes her not just special, but EXTRA special? But you’ve read it a lot because it works. Sure you’re not shocked, but it’s enjoyable.
And that was really the only unoriginal thing about Shadow and Bone – at least for me. You’ve got a special, pampered class of magic born people called the grisha. As the story develops, we understand that this designation is way more complex than it initially appears. I loved that it wasn’t obviously black and white, and I really liked the different common reactions to the grisha – ranging from worship to disdain.
There’s all sorts of power struggles, between the magic and non-magic people, within the grisha themselves and also the ruling entities. The power struggles made Shadow and Bone really sophisticated for a young adult novel, even one in a fantasy world. It also allowed for some twists that I didn’t see coming and really enjoyed.
I got so into the magic and conflicts – from personal squabbles to huge, country changing scale – that the characters almost seem unimportant. That’s not the case of course, but I guess they didn’t register for me in the way they would in a character driven story. I did like Alina, the main character and point of view for the story. But she could have been any orphan with a humble upbringing from my point of view. She’s nice, humble, and has a youthful innocence that carries over to her love interests. She wants what right and even makes some pretty brave moves. But she didn’t particularly make me FEEL.
You’d think that’s a big deal, but it really wasn’t. I still got totally invested in the story and I care a lot about some of the secondary characters. Based on the blurb and other reviews, I kind of expected the romance to be more dominant. I love a friend to lover’s romance – and since Alina is in love with her childhood friend (from the very beginning) this definitely has a bit of that. But it gets all screwed up because (1) Malyen (childhood friend) doesn’t seem to see Alina that way and (2) the Darkling comes in and sweeps Alina off her feet. The thing is, neither relationship ever felt real for me. One felt like a childhood crush that isn’t reciprocated, the other felt suspicious. So it wasn’t real romance for me. It was GOOD and FUN and definitely held my attention, but I wasn’t swept away in the romance. *shrugs*
I’m particularly glad I listened to Shadow and Bone, since there were some names and places I probably would have stumbled over while reading – this has a Russian element – but Lauren Fortgang flowed over those parts so well. Plus she did a good job with all the voices and personalities – even the male voices really worked.
I’m glad I’ve finally entered the world of Shadow and Bone – and I’m really looking forward to listening to the next book!