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.
Oh wow. If you haven't already, go and pick up this book. It is easily one of the best books I have ever read. It was so well-written and the worldbuilding was phenomenal. This is what YA fantasy should be. As a warning, I don't believe that anything I say in this review will do this book justice, but I'm going to say stuff anyway.
Smart and Brave Heroine: CHECK
Alina is kind of awesome, but also kind of not (which makes her more awesome)...if you could follow that. She went through some pretty awful things, but she never complained. She didn't always know how to deal with the things that happened and she often made huge mistakes, but that didn't make you hate her. She was brave because she had to be brave. One of my favorite parts of this book was how well Alina was written. She was a worrier, she knew that. So it didn't feel stupid for her to worry about things that would probably never happen, it just seemed like a part of her character. She was weak and clumsy for the first half of the book, but not for no reason (I mean that she wasn't written that way to make her more endearing or whatever). Another great thing about this book is that whenever Alina realized that she was alone in the world, so did the reader. I outwardly shuddered when I realized that, because I was so much inside the story that it felt real. I was actually worried for what would become of Alina and Mal and all of Ravka. And sure, Alina trusted the wrong people and wasn't necessarily strong, but she was brave enough to try to do the right thing.
Intelligent and Interesting Hero: CHECK
oh Mal. Mal is kind of stupid for the first part of the book. Or maybe he's just always been oblivious to Alina's feelings. Either way, he makes Alina's life hard by slowly drifting away from her friendship. And I didn't like Mal for the first part, but I could see myself growing to like him. Then when we saw him again I didn't just like him, I loved him. He and Alina were so easy together, they played off each others strengths decently well. He was a genuine character because he wasn't perfect and forgiving. He got angry. He got angry at himself and he got angry at Alina, but in the end he didn't let it ruin everything. In all honesty, he probably wasn't in more than a hundred pages of this book, but he made an impact on the story (and that's how you know that the character was well-written).
Extraordinary Supporting Characters: CHECK
The Darkling: I cannot even explain how complex this character was. Having reached the end of this book, even I can't tell what was real and what was fake in his actions. He's motivated by nothing but power, but for a good portion of the book he seems genuinely good. I don't believe for a second that he died in the Fold, so I'm interested to see more of him in the next book. I'm not sure, but I have a feeling that his name is going to play an important role. It was so perfect that he controlled darkness and Alina controlled light. The fact that they controlled opposites made their fight scenes so cool to read and their personalities so interesting to analyze against one another.
Genya: I don't even know what I think about Genya. I can't tell if I still like her or if I think she's a coward. Her friendship with Alina was so good and believable. They contrasted in interesting ways. I thought I had begun to understand her when this quote came along,
"How was it that Genya had fallen so hard for someone so serious and so quiet and so seemingly oblivious to her gorgeousness? Or was that exactly why she had fallen for David?"
She was tired of being ogled simply for her beauty, so she fell for the one person who didn't seem to notice. But I think if David gave her the attention he gives her work, she would cease to be interested in him.
Baghra: I loved her from the start. She was funny and sassy and mean, but she was well-meaning and in the end she was the only reason that Alina got away from Os Alta. I hope she's still around and that she escaped so she can help Alina fight the Darkling. That would present an interesting conflict between her desire to stop the Darkling and her desire to protect her son.
Marie, Nadia, Sergei, and Zoya: Meeting the other Grisha and getting a look at the gossip and petty drama of it all added depth to the story. I didn't like any of them, but they made Alina's time at the Little Palace more interesting and infuriating.
The Apparat: I still don't know what to make of the Apparat. I think I trust him, and I'm wondering why he disappeared in the "After" section. I think that has some significance, but I don't know what.
Fedyor: Don't ask me why, but I really like Fedyor. I want to see more of him.
Alexei: okay...fine... just let me meet a character that I like. and then just take him away almost immediately...sure... don't worry about my sanity or anything...
Excellent Plot: CHECK
The plot of this book was quite unlike any other plot I've read. There was no indication of where it was headed or when it would get there, yet it had direction. You could feel it building up to something. A lot of time passed, but it never felt boring. Part of the intrigue of the plot was in the slow reveal of the world-building. There was not a single instance of info-dumping on the reader. What you found out, you found out slowly and for yourself. There was no time when the book stopped to say, "okay, this is what Grisha means. These are all the kinds of Grisha powers. This is exactly what they can and cannot do." You slowly put definitions to all the words that were thrown at you. But, at the same time, it never got confusing. There were no sentences that made no sense, because you could tell what purpose they had even if you didn't understand all the terms yet. That takes skill as a writer.
Plot Twists and Page Turners: CHECK
There were some plot twists that I didn't see coming at all. Then there were some times when I felt the importance of something, but just didn't know what the importance was yet. All of these things kept me turning the pages so I could learn more and more about Ravka. There was a lot of figuring out who you could trust and who you couldn't in this book. I still don't know who to trust.
Like I said at the beginning, I cannot say enough good things about this book. It is brilliant and beautifully written and practically perfect. I've always appreciated fantasy and this book explains perfectly why that is. If you're hesitating even a little about reading this book, then I haven't done this book justice. So, I'll just say again, GO READ THIS. NOW.
"I guess it's easy to have a lot in common when you're kids."
"The horse has speed. The bear has strength. The bird has wings. No creature has all of these gifts, and so the world is held in balance.
"And there's nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be a hawk."
"The thought filled me with grief, grief for the dreams we'd shared, for the love I'd felt, for the hopeful girl I would never be again."
"I try to make a habit of getting things hopelessly wrong."
"I wanted to run after him, to take back what I'd said, to beg him to stay, but I'd spent my life running after Mal. Instead, I stood in silence and let him go."
"You think I don't love my son," she said. "But I do. It is because I love him that I will not let him put himself beyond redemption."
"I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I'd catch myself walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I'd seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I'd realize that you weren't there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I've risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me we don't belong together."
"I love you, Alina, even the part of you that loved him."
"They were wrong. I wasn't nervous or frightened. I wan't anything anymore."
"The stag had been showing me my strength--not just the price of mercy but the power it bestowed."