19 November 2012

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
I love the instances when a book lives up to its hype.  I didn't have to read any reviews to know that Shadow and Bone was amazing because of the breadth of its readership.  I bought it on a whim, still wary from the last time I'd bought a book before reading it.  In retrospect, it was a grand decision, and one that saved a lot of time since I probably would've ended up buying it anyway.  I was instantly hooked with Bardugo's masterful hand at atmosphere, the unique world she created, and the characters that populated it.  As soon as I began the first page, I was hooked.

Finally, here was something vastly unique -- a bright beacon of originality in this sea of cookie cutter dystopians and high fantasies.  I love how Bardugo transported me to a world highly influenced (or possibly, loosely based on) Russia.  I have been fascinated by Russia for years now and to see Bardugo's incredibly crafted world based on Russian culture?  I was ecstatic.

I was slightly worried, however, that poor character development would make the whole thing crash and burn.  Wrong!  I was a big fan of Alina's character -- I love how she had the inner conviction and courage to stick up for herself.  So when a stranger runs into her, blames the collision on her, she defends herself.  Small things like that made me really enjoy her narrative.

I love this world Bardugo created.  It was so detailed, I could feel the passion behind it, and the amount of energy and time that must've gone into creating all the different facets of the world.  The atmosphere was so unique.  This is a world that I would love to live in (but only if I get a cool power).

The plot was exciting with all the twists, turns, and new developments.  It was also easy to follow because Bardugo took the time to set up the world without bogging the story down.  So by the time the climax rose ahead, I knew what was at stake, and I was as afraid for the outcome as the characters were.  The ending left me absolutely buzzing for the sequel!

Shadow and Bone truly deserves all the hype that is circulating around it.  (I am so excited to hear that DreamWorks has optioned it for a movie.)  Anyone who loves high fantasy, or wants a step away from dystopian, Shadow and Bone is a good book to pick up next.

"C’mon," he said. "One foot in front of the other. You know how it’s done."

"You’re interfering with my plan."

"Oh really?"

"Yes. Faint, get trampled, grievous injuries all around."

"That sounds like a brilliant plan."

"Ah, but if I’m horribly maimed, I won’t be able to cross the Fold."

Mal nodded slowly. "I see. I can shove you under a cart if that would help."
"You're very welcome," she said, giving my hair a hard tug. "You should be used to being gawked at by now."

"And yet I'm not."

"Well, if it gets too bad, give me a signal, and I'll get up on the banquet table, toss my skirt over my head, and do a little dance. That way no one will be looking at you."
Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 358
  • published - June 2012
  • publisher - Henry Holt and Co.
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - Amazon
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Grisha trilogy
    • Shadow and Bone
    • Siege and Storm
    • Ruin and Rising