Shadow and Bone – Review
Title: Shadow and Bone (The Grishaverse #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Shadow and Bone is a YA Fantasy novel mainly written from the perspective of the protagonist female Alina Starkov, who is taken away from her normal life and best friend Mal to become part of the Grisha, a group of powerful beings with magical abilities.
Alina is a fairly typical YA protagonist with a plain appearance and a lot of self doubt. She is a likable character and I am definitely intrigued as to how her character will develop with the series, although I felt drawn to some of the other characters more. Genya for example, a beautiful Grisha, is a fantastic character and probably my favourite so far. She is witty, affable and it is easy to understand her perspective on the world. The Darkling, the tall, dark, mysterious leader of the Grisha, is a very interesting character who, for most of the book, walks the line of whether you should love him or hate him. Knowing whether you can trust the Darkling is a key part of the narrative in book one and it certainly kept me guessing!
The Darkling is also heavily involved in some of the book’s main themes: Identity, trust, power, control and shadow vs light. The power and control elements of the book were fantastic, especially in relation to the Darkling but also within the palace; Genya’s story is particularly poignant. Bardugo creates a world where many of the characters are like puppets on a string but who is pulling which strings and to what end is not always immediately known.
Shadow vs light is a theme that not only features in the characters, their powers and morals, but is a fundamental part of the world that the author has built. The Shadow Fold, also known as the Unsea, is an impenetrable dark power that changes the lives of the people on the continent. Shadow and light are also a matter of perspective. Beautiful places are tainted with dark undertones. Places you would consider to have a darker, negative energy actually transform into a shining a beacon of light and hope when times get hard.
The book is very atmospheric, especially where the Grisha’s world is concerned. I can easily imagine walking in to one of their opulent tents or around the grounds of the Little Palace. I did feel that the pace dropped off at a few points in the book but I was easily drawn back in by the potent atmosphere created by from very strong world building.
Shadow and Bone definitely has Russian influences as is clear from the names used in the book. It is nice that the book contains original names but I did, particularly at the beginning of the book, find them slightly off-putting. Perhaps I get too distracted by how words should be pronounced but some of them are certainly a mouthful! Once I became familiar with the places though I enjoyed and appreciated the uniqueness of their names a lot more.
Overall I enjoyed Shadow and Bone. I wasn’t gripped as much as I would have hoped, although I think the cult status and hype surrounding the series probably played a role in my very high expectations. The book is a solid 3.5 stars and I will definitely continue to read the series. I look forward to seeing how the narrative and characters progress. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys series such as Divergent and Throne of Glass.