Shadow and Bone, the first in The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, was supposed to be among the best titles to come out last year; and I have to say that I feel like it certainly delivers.
The story is set in a world that is reminiscent of Russia, but with a twist: Ravka, the country where Shadow and Bone is set, is divided in two by the Fold, a blanket of darkness that is swarming with flesh
Bardugo worked very well with the setting. The descriptions were colorful and lush, and I could imagine the world to the point where I felt familiar with it. The weather, the palaces, the woods, all of them became alive and were characters in their own merit.
But the element that I liked the most about this book was the actual characters. Alina is a striking protagonist. She doesn’t have much confidence in herself; she doesn’t think she’s lovely, and she doesn’t feel like she really belongs anywhere except with her childhood friend, Mal. But as the story progresses, Alina grows. She becomes beautiful by accepting her power, by accepting herself as she is and accepting that inner strength that had been lying dormant for so long. She struggles with being accepted, with finding a place where she belongs, and then realizes that she has exactly what she needs. By embracing who she is, what she is, Alina becomes strong. And this is such an important message not only for young readers, but for people in general. Alina struggles with things that many people struggle with as they grow up, as they go to college, as they go to work. And I find it so beautiful that this has been incorporated into this book and made part of its themes. It’s probably why I like this book so much.
But I’m gushing.
The rest of the characters also unravel and change over the book. Mal goes through a series of ups and downs. One of Alina’s close friends does so too. And the Darkling, who is such a questionable character, also changes. Bardugo makes sure that the motivations behind the actions of her characters are also presented. Eventually, it is understood why the characters do what they do. This helps in making them more complex and more engaging (I won’t delve more into this because I feel like I have given so much away!). But the fact remains that the characters’ decisions change and shape Ravka’s future.
I was blown away by Shadow and Bone. Perhaps the only thing that distracted me, and it was at the very beginning and barely noticeable, was that there was a bit more telling than showing. But I don’t know if I just dived into the story or if Bardugo worked with this, but it stopped distracting me around Chapter 3 or 4, and it was barely noticeable because the story, the characters and their voices are so well constructed that you might not notice it.
I love this book and I recommend it. I can’t wait for the second book, Siege and Storm.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Mara is the Young Adult Book Reviewer for Girls in Capes. She is working on an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction.
PS: I’m excited to announce that we have a hardcover copy of Shadow and Bone and we’re giving it away to a Girls in Capes fan! If you’re interested, you can find the giveaway here. This giveaway is restricted to our fans in the United States. Make sure to comment here for an entry.