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Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) Paperback – May 7, 2013
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2012: Alina Starkov has never been anything more than yet another orphan of her country’s on-going wars...until she channels magic not seen in centuries to protect her best friend, Mal. Her new-found powers attract the attention of the Darkling, the most powerful of the country’s magic-wielders. He tells Alina that her magic could heal the Shadow Fold, if she can only learn to control it--and if she agrees to trust the Darkling despite the mystery that surrounds his very existence. Leigh Bardugo brings a cast of well-defined characters and a unique magic system to her lavishly imagined world, where light doesn’t always conquer dark and deception runs so deep that it becomes truth. And yet, against all expectations, the bonds of sacrifice and friendship remain too strong to be severed in this thrilling debut. --Malissa Kent
Amazon Exclusive: Editor Noa Wheeler Interviews Leigh Bardugo, author of Shadow and Bone
Nora Wheeler: I was really struck when I was reading Shadow and Bone by the beautiful setting. It's not our world exactly but it feels very Russian. Can you tell me a little bit more about the setting and how it played into your writing?
Leigh Bardugo: I think a lot of people have come to expect the medieval European setting from fantasy, and I wanted to use a different cultural touchstone for my world. There's also this terrible tension between the beauty of Russian culture and the brutality of its history that just lends itself to high-drama narrative. The more I researched the more inspired I got.
NW: I truly believe that Shadow and Bone is a book for everyone. It's fantasy but there's plenty here for someone who's not a regular fantasy reader to fall in love with. That makes it feel different to me from a lot of what's out there. Do you agree? And if so, what do you think makes this book different?
LB: I hope you're right! I tried really hard to make the book accessible to people who might not ordinarily pick up high fantasy. I'm a fantasy writer, so I love world building. I love maps. I love all that good stuff. But the story really began for me with the relationships between Alina and Mal and the Darkling. And I hope that comes through. Some people are put off by fantasy because they pick up a book and there are 10 terms and each one has 20 consonants and three apostrophes and you have no idea how to pronounce things and it kind of makes the book feel like work. So I tried to ease people into the world a bit more gently. That's also why I chose to tell the story from Alina's point of view. She's very down to earth, very pragmatic, has a modern sensibility. I hope her perspective will make it easier for readers to enter Ravka.
NW: Another thing I think makes this book so different is that the magic is very accessible. For instance, I love the idea of the Small Science, of something that looks like magic being an enhancement of what's actually around us all the time. Can you elaborate on that aspect of the story a little bit?
LB: I've just always been interested in the functionality of magic. I love Harry Potter and I always wondered what actually happens physically and structurally when you mutter a curse or wave a wand. I wanted to get into the nitty-gritty of how the magic worked. So the Small Science is really about manipulating matter at its most fundamental levels. It's basically magical molecular chemistry.
NW: This is a little bit of a fangirl question, but if you could meet one of your characters who would it be and why?
LB: Well, my fangirl answer would be The Darkling. Because he's gorgeous and mysterious and dangerous and all those fun things. But I would also love to meet Genya. She kind of serves as Alina's guide into this magical world of the Grisha and the political maneuvering of the royal court. She's a combination of a make-up artist, a plastic surgeon, and a sorceress--and on the surface she's the classic fairy godmother, sassy best friend character, but there's a lot more to her than that. She's been kicked around and looked down on a lot throughout her life, yet she's always managed to keep her chin up and stay fabulous. I like that, and I think she'd be really fun to hang out with.
NW: What do you want readers to take away from this book?
LB: The message at the heart of the story is basically that the things that you fear most in yourself, the things that make you different, are also the things that give you power. And that embracing them can make you beautiful. So I would love it if people took that away from the book. I would also love it if people came away from it wanting to know what happens next for Alina and Mal! Things get really intense in the sequel, Siege and Storm. There are some new characters and what I hope will be some big surprises.
NW: Thanks so much for talking about Shadow and Bone with me today.
LB: My pleasure. Thank you!
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up–Orphaned from the Border Wars, Alina was raised by strangers with her only friend, Mal. Drafted into the army of war-torn Rafka, the pair joins their regiment on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a place where darkness reigns and nobody survives the attacks of its native, nightmarish creatures. When the two friends are attacked, Alina inadvertently summons her dormant magical powers to save her regiment. She is ripped from everything she knows and sent to be trained as a Grisha in the court of the Darkling, the most powerful magic wielder. Cut off from contact with Mal, Alina has a hard time learning to use her power. When she discovers the Darkling's plan to enslave her in order to destroy all who oppose him, she must figure out a way to stop him and find her way back to Mal. Will she learn to wield her power and save Rafka before it's too late? Narrator Amanda Dolan masterfully brings Alina's world of magic and monsters to life. Bardugo's well-developed characters in this debut novel (Holt, 2012) are enhanced by the narrator's unique voices and intonations. The transitions between action and suspense are incredible, and listeners will be totally engrossed. The twists throughout this unique plot are expertly handled by both author and narrator and keep listeners guessing. For fans of dark fantasy, adventure, suspense, and magic.–Kira Moody, Whitmore Public Library, Salt Lake City, UTα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
The world and character building was a little sparse considering that the reader is going into these novels without any idea about the world, the rulers and rules, or the Grisha. I do wish we were given a chapter or so to really explain the Grisha as they are the most fascinating part of the novel. There are these people with powers and you're introduced to what they can do as you see them, but I feel like a reader would connect with the novel more if you understood the heirarchy of the Grisha, the way they categorize powers, and what those powers could entail before we are introduced to the multitude of abilities and fringe characters.
The novel progressed at a good pace until it came to the end and then it seems like a number of plot points were just jammed into the conclusion. It felt like the author wrote 87% of their novel and then said, "Shoot. We need the bad guy to accomplish x by the end of the novel, mess up the good guy's life, and then have the good guy come up with a plan that allows them to segue into the next novel... and I've only got 13% of the book left to accomplish it." It just seemed to jump around too much and I would have preferred it if the book was lengthened so that the storyline could be fully fleshed out.
Other than those concerns, I did really enjoy the book and look forward to reading the rest of the series. Definitely give it a chance if you like YA and unique magic series like Sword of Truth or Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
One of the more original and fresh books I've read in a long time. Shadow and Bone is the story of two orphans, childhood friends, who only had each other in the world. Now semi-grown up (hence the young adult genre) Alina and Mal are traveling across their country when something happens that will change the course of their lives forever.
"I pressed my forehead to Mal's and heard him whisper, 'I'll meet you in the meadow'."
Alina is whisked into the world of the Grisha, where she meets the mystifying Darkling. Alina learns she contains the ability to save the world and to help her country win a war that has lasted for over a hundred years. She now has this grand new life presented to her, but Alina wishes to return to her old one with her best friend Mal. This new standing in life has Alina confused as to where she belongs, despite everyone around her insisting they know she is among the elite.
"It would have placed you high above the others."
"Well, I don't want to be high above all the others."
The Darkling is a mystery to Alina, and she does not know what to think of him most of the time or understand his motivations. Despite this, the Darkling wants to and tried to gain Alina's trust.
"You're the first glimmer of hope I've had in a long time."
Not to spoil too much, but as could be guessed, not everything in Alina's new world is as great as it seems. The court at which she resides is full of secrets and lies, yet surprisingly Alina does not let this ward her off, but just withstands it (in my opinion). What I liked best was the development of Alina's character over time and how she began to understand she needed to unlock secrets and fears within herself to truly grow into what she needed to be. Alina went from being a timid sickly girl into someone who was strong and willing to work hard to obtain great things.
Laced with wit and a little humor, Shadow and Bone is easily one of those books where I am mentally kicking myself for not having read it sooner.
"Where did you learn to fight like that?"
"Grisha training," I whispered dramatically. "Ancient secrets of the groin kick."
Alina lives in a world where the Shadow Fold has split Ravka in two. The Shadow Fold is basically this huge area of complete darkness that breeds some pretty evil creatures. When Alina is in the Fold she finally discovers a dormant Grisha power. Alina, unfortunately, bothered me at first. She was so insistent on denying her Grisha abilities that it became annoying. She constantly reminds us how unattractive and unremarkable she is. As the story progressed I did like her more, but never felt a strong connection to her as a character.
I do wish the world-building was more developed. We did not get to see much of Alina’s world other than the fold and Os Alta until the last 20% of the book. Although I did enjoy the scenes after Alina left Os Alta and we got to see more through her travels. I don’t know much about Russian history and culture, but I didn’t feel the Russian influence in the book other than the fact that everyone had a Russian name and they drank a lot of kvas. That is just my opinion! From my perspective, it didn’t feel different than any other YA novel. I keep thinking of another favorite series- The Girl of Fire and Thorns. In this series, the Spanish influence in the language and culture was obvious to me and gave the book a different feel.
I really enjoyed some aspects of the book. Alina has some great sarcastic and witty dialogue. I also love the scene when Alina finally recalls the memory of her being tested for a Grisha ability as a child. This is a great scene and helped me better understand her character. There are also some exciting fight scenes- I loved seeing Alina utilize her training. I also loved watching Mal’s character progression. I hope to see more of him in the series.
The ending was honestly very abrupt for me. I was starting to think, “Wow this is getting good!” Then it ended. I will read the next book eventually, but for now I will move on to other books. A fun read, but I didn’t love it.