So if y’all don’t know, I’m pretty obsessed with Leigh Bardugo, but I had never stepped foot in her Grisha Trilogy until now. I honestly thought that after Six of Crows nothing could compare (and let’s be honest, nothing will) and I had seen so many negative reviews about it on Goodreads that it kind of…slipped by me.
And it was pretty amazing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness. . . 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.
“He has served countless kings, faked countless deaths, bided his time, waiting for you.”
Rich, compelling, gorgeous. Those are just a few words to describe my initial reaction after finishing Shadow and Bone. It’s now my favorite novel of 2017.
As if that should surprise you.
Shadow and Bone was an incredibly satisfying fantasy novel set in Russian-inspired Ravka. It was captivating, it was beautiful, and it. Was. Mesmerizing.
Bardugo’s writing shines in her dazzling worldbuilding and masterful characterization. It was impossible not to be swept up in it. The Ravkan world was almost unquestionable in its reality, and felt stunningly beautiful. Without going anywhere, I felt like I had travelled to a different world, and for me, that made Shadow and Bone kind of one of the best books ever.
Her characters were intriguing and faceted. I could definitely feel that it was pre-Six of Crows work though. Some of the characters’ motives and actions seemed unexplainable at times, and even the dialogue slipped into an amateur level, but it was nothing I couldn’t look past. (Okay, it was difficult. But still.)
The antagonist, however, was written so, so well. Again, some of his actions/motives were pretty poorly written and a little cliché as well, but his overall quality was wonderful. Wonderful.
He made villains kind of one of the best things ever.
The bare merit Leigh Bardugo’s impeccable worldbuiliding and fantastic antagonist alone is enough to land Shadow and Bone on my favorites shelf right away, but there are a few more things I want to talk about.
As with any novel, it had its rough spots, and not even Leigh Bardugo can get away with a perfect record, so here’s the bad news:
There was a love triangle. I repeat, there was a love triangle.
Do you hear those alarm bells ringing?
Love triangles are so unneccessary for me. Honestly, isn’t there another way to hook a reader? And to say there isn’t one here would be a flat-out lie.
And I like you. So I won’t lie to you.
There is a love triangle.
If that’s your thing, that’s totally cool. I get that. Love triangles can be fun, especially if they’re written really well. (Yes, it can happen, you doubter.)
And this one kind of was. At least, it wasn’t making me rip my hair out. It was subtly played, and it wasn’t central to the story (although in a way, it really, really was). And if I’m honest, it was extremely well executed and part of me was totally digging it. I mean, if I didn’t, I would be bashing the genius of Leigh Bardugo, and that’s…unacceptable.
So if you’re like me and aren’t a huge fan of love triangles, you might not be too enthusiastic about this romance, but I doubt you’d hate it either. And honestly, both romances in the “triangle” were so well done I almost didn’t mind there was a tricksy little triangle at all.
But we have one more thing to cover.
The marvelous, the amazing, the definitely-not-optional Plot. (Kiera Cass, please note that last characteristic. Thank you.)
The plot of Shadow and Bone was a little slow in coming, (and if slow paced books bug you, I might stay away from this one), but personally, I’m always down for a slower ride, and regardless of pace, the plot here was excellent. There were twists and turns that I didn’t expect, and well, I love that.
Shadow and Bone wasn’t extremely brilliant or even very complex. It didn’t leave me reeling and it didn’t leave me gasping for air. But it was so, so engaging, and gripped me from the very start. It was it’s own kind of magic.
It deserves every bit of a five-star rating.
Is it okay for me to read?
Language • • • • •
Two or three uses of mild profanity. (For example, a** and b***h are both used once.)
Violence • • • • •
Large, bat-like creatures feature in some dynamic battles and cause a few bloody wounds, but beyond that, there isn’t much. Those scenes might seem a bit intense at times, they never step over the bounds of gory and are very few.
Sensuality • • • • •
A few kisses, and one heavier make-out scene that (thankfully) stops before anything “happens.” A servant is suspected to have been “used” by the king and cautions the heroine to be careful of powerful men. Some light innuendo.
Substances • • • • •
A few characters drink, and the heroine Alina has a couple glasses of champagne, though she expresses her distaste of alcohol.
For more about my content ratings and what they mean, click here.