Monday, June 11, 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 can deal with fantasy far more than I can deal with, say, paranormal, and thus I wasn't too worried about Shadow and Bone going in. I didn't end up loving it as many of the other people on goodreads seem to, but I liked it well enough despite all the aspects I didn't particularly enjoy.
As you may be able to guess from the names in the description and the cover, the world of Shadow and Bone is inspired by Russia more than any other place I can recognize. This inspiration is unique enough to make the book stand out from other fantasies I've read and also to hold my interest because of how unfamiliar the entire world is. My interest was also maintained because Shadow and Bone is relatively free of info-dumping regarding the setting, so I had to pay attention to understand the Darkling's power, the Fold, and the rest of the Grisha system. At times this was annoying because I felt there was more going on than I realized-- feelings that are probably partially my fault and perhaps the fault of Alina, who sounds decidedly modern even in this otherworldly setting.
However, despite how out-of-place the voice of Alina, and many other characters, sometimes seemed, I did generally at least like the characters and the storyline. I quickly tired of hearing Alina discuss how beautiful the people around her are compared to her plain looks, but the actions she takes endeared her to me nonetheless-- I appreciated her motivation and loyalty to her friends enough that other things, like her obnoxious romantic entanglements, were overshadowed. I'm similarly almost ambivalent about the rest of the cast; some of the characters, particularly the Grisha ones, are not present long enough to make much of an impression, but even the characters that are seem like they're around more to serve as catalysts for plot twists. Which is alright in that it causes more action to occur, but I'd prefer if they were more than just bringers of excitement.
I wanted more development from the characters and the setting, but the action and originality of Shadow and Bone won me over.
Book details: Henry Holt and Co./Hardcover/$17.99
Source: sent by publisher for review