Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

December 9, 2014 Reviews 24

Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Audible Studios, Henry Holt and Co. on November 30, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 358
Length: 8 hours 55 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased

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.

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.

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!

4 stars Pretty Great

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About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, raised in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she hides out in Hollywood and indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as makeup artist L.B. Benson.

Her debut novel, Shadow & Bone (Holt Children’s/Macmillan) is now a New York Times Best Seller.

She would be delighted if you followed her on Twitter, elated if you visited her web site, and downright giddy if you liked Shadow & Bone on Facebook.


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About Berls
Berls has been a book lover her whole life. She reads pretty much every genre and is currently working hard at making her childhood dream of becoming an author come true. She loves sharing her thoughts about books, blogging, and just random fun stuff. She's a challenge and read-a-thon junkie, so it's no wonder that she loves co-hosting the COYER reading challenge. Leave a comment, Berls is always happy to chat!

24 Responses to “Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo”

  1. Bookworm Brandee

    This one is on my radar too, Berls. I am glad you liked it overall and are invested in the story and most of the characters. I like the sound of the grisha and that the power struggles make for a sophisticated story. I like those. πŸ™‚ I will, of course, probably read this rather than listen but I’m pretty stoked about it. Hopefully I can fit it in sometime in early 2015.
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    • Berls

      The power struggles really made the book in my opinion, they kept me on my toes, guessing! I hope you enjoy it, once you read it πŸ™‚

  2. Lola

    I really want to read this book, it sounds so good and I like the cover ;). The predictable aspect doesn’t really make me happy though, but I am glad you say it’s still enjoyable dspite that. And those power struggles and the whole idea of the grisha sounds interesting. Sounds like this is a story driven book, let’s hope the characters make you feel a bit more in the next book. Great review Berls!
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    • Berls

      Thanks Lola! I think the predictability was more on a character level than all-around story, if that makes sense. As far as Alina is concerned, for example, she’s just so typical. But the world has so many surprises for you to make that not matter so much. In my opinion at least.

  3. Ramona

    Interesting. I kind of liked this one a lot. She did a great job building her world, and the Russian touches… It worked for me (I lived in Moscow for a few years:) ) Anyway, awesome review (yet again!) I love this blog!!! πŸ˜€
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    • Berls

      Aww thanks πŸ™‚ I’m so glad! I don’t know much about Russian history/culture so I imagine I missed some really great touches with that. I really enjoyed it, just the romance(s) didn’t grab me. I’m hoping I’ll love book 2 even more.

  4. Lexxie

    I have Shadow and Bone on my TBR, Berls, I hope I’ll be able to start reading it soon. And if you enjoyed the narrator, I’ll check some other books she’s narrating as well.
    As soon as the semester is over, I’m reading books for COYER, though πŸ˜‰
    Great review.
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    • Berls

      Well if you get it cheap enough, audio books are allowed for COYER (we have a separate set of prices posted for audio). Lauren Fortang is on my list of go-to narrators – she’s actually the narrator for the book I just reviewed today (Web of Lies) too. I’m not pushing too hard right lol?

    • Berls

      Me too! I haven’t picked up the second one yet, but I do own it, so *hopefully* soon. I don’t know what to think of the Darkling on so many levels, but he’s definitely an interesting character.

    • Berls

      I liked her better as a narrator for this than I do for Elemental Assassin actually – and I like her for that! She just does a great job with this book IMO.

    • Berls

      I think you have to be really into history-esque fantasy and political struggles to enjoy this one, since the characters don’t carry things as well as in some. But, I see potential for liking the characters a lot more as things progress.

  5. Julie

    Definitely agree with you. Loved the world building in this one and while the I didn’t know I was a special snowflake trope is used, it isn’t too bad. I love Mal in this series. I used a lot of his quotes for our meme. It seemed like most people were Team Darkling but I didn’t care for him.
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    • Berls

      Yeah I wasn’t into the Darkling either. I’m not Team Mal yet, but I can see myself growing to like him more than I can the Darkling. I think my problem with him is that he’s had Alina there, loving him for so long, but he’s taken her for granted. Now that she’s someone special and powerful and beautiful it just seems wrong to finally see her. But I do get that he’s loved her as a friend all these years, so he has a chance in my book LOL.

    • Berls

      Thanks Celine! Yeah, she was just okay for me – but the power struggles are fantastic. I’m looking forward to seeing them played out in the rest of the series.

    • Berls

      I agree, Loupe. This is the second series I’ve listened to with Lauren Fortgang narrating and I enjoyed her narration both times!

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