Wednesday Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
- Published on Wednesday, 04 July 2012 11:30
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Shadow and Bone was a surprising, but wonderful fantasy. I picked it up expecting a dystopia, and instead was rewarded with a refreshing and interesting fantasy world rooted in Russian folklore and tradition.
The story follows Alina Starkov, an orphan from the north of Ravka. She grew up alongside her best friend Mal, and even when they are grown they stay together when they join the army. But things change: Mal grows more skilled as a hunter, and more attractive. Alina secretly loves him, but never lets him glimpse her feelings. Then the day arrives for the army to cross the Fold–the dark stretch of magically cursed land that stretches the length of Ravka, separating the capitol in the east from the rich ports of the west. Horrible creatures live within the Fold, and not everyone survives the journey across. The army does have the Grisha to protect them: sorcerers gifted with different talents. Every child in Ravka is tested for magic at a young age, but this is the day that Alina is going to discover that she’s been a Grisha all along and never known it. When their barge is attacked by creatures while crossing the Fold Alina suddenly discovers she has the ability to summon the power of the sun, and her life will change forever. Sucked into the intrigue of the Grisha school and the royal court, Alina must learn to use her powers, and who to love and trust.
The magic of this world was different than most magic seen in YA fantasy: instead of the typical unexplainable gifts, the Grisha magic is a kind of science. Each Grisha is able to call on certain physical elements (fire, water, wind, etc.) and craft it to their control. There are Fire Summoners, Heart Renders, and many more. Alina’s gift is really no more different or special than the other summoners, but it is unique in that she is the first and only ever Sun Summoner born, and in that her power could save Ravka from the Fold.
What I enjoyed most about Shadow and Bone was the growth of Alina’s character. She is haunted and bound by her past and her childhood friend. During the first few months of her Grisha training she achieves almost nothing, which she eventually discovers is because she is holding on too tight to the things that she has lost. Only by letting go and allowing herself to change is she able to access the full potential of her power. Part of her growth means making new friends, and new enemies. And most importantly of all she must learn who to trust and how she fits into the grand scheme of the Grisha and the realm.
There was just enough romance to make the story really interesting. You’ve got Mal, Alina’s childhood friend who’s never looked at her twice romantically. And then you have the Darkling, the leader and most powerful of the Grisha, who is dark and mysterious. Alina’s growth isn’t just about finding herself and learning to control her powers, its also about building relationships and learning to let someone close to you. Of course, whether she decides to let the right person inside her walls is something that you’ll have to learn by reading the book.
The end was surprisingly and exciting, and went somewhere that I never expected this book to go. Shadow and Bone ended with a bang, solidly wrapping up this story and setting up for a great series. I am very excited to see what Leigh Bardugo does next.