Thursday, May 17, 2012
Book review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Alina Starkov has always seen herself as a poor orphan that's completely ordinary and good at nothing. After her parents died, she grew up in an orphanage. Her only friend was Mal, a boy her age, but now that they have grown up, they aren't as close as they once were. Their nation, Ravka, is at war, threatened both by external forces and the monsters from the Shadow Fold, a swath of land, created by some supernatural darkness, that cuts the country in two, and so after leaving the orphanage, they were required to join the military. Alina isn't even very good at her job there, no matter how hard she tries. But then, during an expedition into the Shadow Fold, she saves the lives of her companions with a power she never knew she had, and her life changes forever. Alina is separated from everyone she knows and taken to the capital where she is trained to use her new power along with the other Grisha, the elite magic users of her world who are led by the mysterious Darkling. She doesn't know who to trust, struggles to control her power and misses Mal, who hasn't returned her letters.
From the start, I loved how unique the setting of Shadow and Bone is. Most high fantasy seems to be set in worlds inspired by western Europe in the Middle Ages, but the world of Ravka is based on late nineteenth-century Russia. I'm not sure how true to Russian culture the setting is, but it definitely has a unique flavor that sets it apart from other books. I think the setting was my favorite thing about this book. I also loved how unique the story and supernatural elements were. I don't think I've seen another book with a plot similar to this one!
I really enjoyed this book but it does have a few small flaws, although these didn't detract very much from my enjoyment of the story. I thought Alina seemed to obsess a bit too much over her appearance, and how plain and ordinary she was. I also guessed really early on who the villain would end up being, although I'm not sure if it was intended to be predictable or not. But overall I loved how different this book was from the typical young adult fantasy and I can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy to find out what happens next. Despite these small flaws, if you are looking to read something different from the young adult fantasy genre, I highly recommend Shadow and Bone.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.