I bought this book for myself. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.
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.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.
Shadow and Bone was one of my favorite fantasy reads of 2015. I first heard of the Grisha trilogy from an older cousin who teaches English in South Korea. Then I heard talk of it, and Leigh Bardugo, again as the book blogging community began raving about the stunning debut Six of Crows last fall. After committing to a buddy read with Blaise @ The Book Boulevard, I unwittingly managed to marathon this entire trilogy in less than a week last October.
I decided to pick this trilogy up for the second time because my best friend Sara has started reading it for the first time and I wanted to be able to talk about it with her. I was also hoping to be as enthralled as I was the first time I read it and glean inspiration for my own writing, which recently has been suffering. Unfortunately, I found myself enjoying this book significantly less than the first time, even as I was able to appreciate more this time around.
I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.
The biggest disappointment for me the second time around with this book is that this book feels entirely like a set-up for the next book. This book is introduces the protagonist, establishes the villain, sets up the central “love triangle”, protagonist’s task to save the world. But other than that, very little real action happens in this book. Most of the pages are spent on building romantic tension and watching Alina waver as she learns to master her power. As result you can whiz through Shadow and Bone very quickly.
The main things Shadow and Bone has going for it is an incredibly unique world, considering the dominance of Western Europe-inspired fantasy, and a differentiated magic system. Also, there’s some really nice romantic tension between Alina and the Darkling, if you like that kind of thing.
Shadow and Bone while set in the same Grisha universe is no Six of Crows. Six of Crows is nothing short of amazing, delivering on EVERYTHING a reader could ask for in a novel: romance, adventure, danger, character development, plot, comedic relief, etc. Shadow and Bone meanwhile is a modest introduction to a complex world and a fairly standard YA fantasy fare.
In case you are wondering, it is entirely possible to read Six of Crows before you read the Grisha trilogy. I think Six of Crows actually helped me understand the broader scope of the world better than I did having just read the Grisha trilogy, as this trilogy is simply set in the one country of Ravka with several mentions of the other lands but no great examples with which to associate them. The only thing you will really miss is the small allusions to what happens in this trilogy between Alina and the Darkling.