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Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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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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“Danger and duplicity abound (is the Darkling good or evil?) in this lavish portrayal of a country reminiscent of Imperial Russia.” ―VOYA
“Set in a fascinating, unique world rich with detail, Shadow and Bone was unlike anything I've ever read.” ―Veronica Roth, New York Times bestselling author of Divergent
“Fast-paced and unpredictable, this debut novel will be a hit with readers who love dark fantasy.” ―School Library Journal, starred
“Mesmerizing…Bardugo's set up is shiver-inducing, of the delicious variety. This is what fantasy is for.” ―New York Times
“A rich fantasy landscape, an inspired magical structure, and a gratifying emotional hook keep the pages whirring by until a final twist upends assumptions and lands us smack in the middle of a harrowing climax. ” ―Horn Book Magazine
“Filled with lush descriptions, intriguing magic, and plenty of twists, this memorable adventure offers action and intrigue mixed with an undercurrent of romance and danger.” ―Publishers Weekly
“The plotting is powerful…” ―Kirkus
“Bardugo weaves a captivating spell with lushly descriptive writing, engaging characters, and an exotic, vivid world. Readers will wait impatiently for the next installment.” ―Booklist
“Romantic and magical…Plenty of plot twists and betrayals kept us enjoying this richly-crafted adventure until the very last page. (P.S. A do-not-miss for fans of Graceling.)” ―Justine Magazine
“A well-drawn world, full of deceit and mythology, populated by entirely believable characters. Full of truly surprising twists and turns, beautiful imagery and a protagonist it's impossible not to root for, this is a great choice for teenage fans of George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien.” ―RT Book Reviews
“This is one book series you want to get hooked on.” ―Seventeen.com
“This gripping debut novel, with a touch of magic and romance, about two orphans thrown together during a century-old war will keep readers burning the midnight oil.” ―Shelf Awareness
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This is a rehash of many other books, nothing new here.
It feels like half the book is about how people look, and only the beautiful people matter. Such a sad and stupid stereotype.
I won’t be buying the rest of this trilogy, but rather waiting for the author to write new works.
That aside, I couldn't really like the characters. I thought I liked the diamond-in-the-rough heroine but she never really pulled through to get her act together until the very end of this novel. She was constantly being pushed, shoved, led by others. She was easily deceived, and deceived even herself. You would think that after all this time she would figure out who she was and what she wanted. She is no longer a child but she is constantly looking to others to give her the answers.
The character development was really a mixed bag of "aha!" moments the author drops like candies on the floor. No real warning, just suddenly the heroine discovers why she's so brilliant (no pun intended), the hero suddenly decides he loves her, and the villain whom I was really cheering for went from a multi-dimensional puzzle box to a textbook villain with no soul. Ugh. Disappointment central.
The ending wrapped up so quickly it literally took half a chapter and one afterward to wrap it up. One moment it was all confrontation tension, the next, a miraculous resolution because the heroine just figured it all out. The problem with the big reveal is that she never really cared about anything. Not her work. Not her co-workers. Not her life. Not even her health/appearance. She lived her entire life just numb; without hope or joy, just pining after a childhood friend. She obsessed about her childhood friend as if her universe revolved around him, and despite everything that happens to her and everything she's discovered about herself she still clings to him in the end even though we were supposed to believe she completely broke free of that mold many chapters ago.
So she makes a choice, willing to sacrifice all else, including the friends she didn't think she could make and innocent people, to get her HEA. What makes her so different from the enemy, then? In the next book I'm supposed to believe she wants to fight a madman and save the country (she never really care for or fit in anywhere) and its people (she never really had any connection to)? Yeah, I'm thinking I'll just let her do that without me. I'm done Alina. Have fun with that.
The novel was rather short, as well. I think all three could really be reduced to two books, but for the greed of the publisher, we're forced to pay a tall price three times. The first 70% of this book was decent, but I'll save my money and read something else.
While attempting to cross the fold, Army cartographer Alina Starkov finds her transport attacked by the monsters that dwell within. Faced with near-certain death, Alina calls upon a hidden power, and manages to push back the darkness. Returning to non-blighted land, Alina learns that she is a Grisha (witch/mage), and that she may be the only one who can save Ravka from the Shadow Fold. Suddenly thrust into the aristocratic world of the Grisha and Ravka court politics, Alina must master her gift, while at the same time learning to navigate the treacherous waters of court life.
This is YA done right. Books like this keep me coming back to the genre when I feel that reading one more angsty book will drive me mad. The plot (this is the first installment in a trilogy) is well executed. The characters are still in their nascent phase, but show great promise. The requisite love triangle feels a bit more realistic than most entries in the YA genre.
I especially enjoyed the way magic is handled, and the care the author shows in her world building. Bardugo has put together a grand vision, and she has the skill to translate that vision into a gorgeous work of fantasy. The story actually reminds me a bit of the Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan, another fantastic series in YA Fantasy.
Fans of the young adult genre, young adult fantasy, and fantasy in general will enjoy this series. Even those who don’t typically read things in the YA sphere will find a lot to like in this book; it is technically a young adult novel, but it doesn’t read like one. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series.
It's still a good story and if you love ya fantasy romance, I'm sure you'll love it! I'm just an action junkie and this had more romance and awkwardness than action. I'm sure the pace of the next books will pick up (and I'm guessing dramatically) once we focus more on the action and the world of the Grisha (which I'm completely in love with!)
Leigh is an extremely talented author and I have every faith that, in the end, this book will be a whirlwind of a ride!
Top international reviews
Shadow and Bone is the opening novel of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy, a work of fantasy that is both familiar and different. Its core story, of a young woman who discovers she has powers and different forces in the world want to use or abuse those powers, is pretty standard. The setting, which borrows elements from Russian history and geography, is certainly unusual for the fantasy genre although not completely unique (The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia and Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins are recent genre works influenced by Russian culture and mythology).
Shadow and Bone has a number of negatives which I'll get out of the way first. It's pretty standard fare. Traditional fantasy tropes are deployed and explored with some flourishes, but no real originality. It's entirely possible you will predict every plot twist well ahead of time. The main character, Alina, is an orphan who turns out to have amazing powers. There's an unrequieted romance, a heated rivalry with a jealous, more aristocratic fellow student and a dangerous, spark-filled relationship with an older man. There's also scenes of Alina learning the arts of magic from an older mentor who deploys pithy sayings and unconventional teaching methods to get spectacular results. There are desperate betrayals, daring escapes in the night and magical battles. And so forth. Depending on how much traditional fantasy you have read in your life, you may not have a huge amount of time for yet more of the same.
But if Shadow and Bone is mostly standard and familiar fare, it is very well-written standard fare, delivered with pace and excitement. The Grisha, a magical order set up like an army with chains of command and different forces and disciplines within its ranks, is an original and memorable creation and the interaction between the different orders is quite well-established. The Shadow Fold is also an unsettling creation and the nature of the creatures within it (the volcra) is disturbing. The different types of Grisha and their abilities are set up but in this first novel we haven't seen too much of what they can do, which hopefully later volumes will rectify.
Characterisation is mostly strong, with Alina making for a likeable heroine and the Darkling (despite his emo name) an interesting and multi-faceted character. Most intriguing is Genya, a Grisha with an apparently limited skill (making people appear more attractive) which she deploys to strong effect. I get the impression she has an interesting story to tell and hopefully she will be more prominent in later volumes, along with her low-key love interest, David. Less interesting is Alina's unrequieted love, Mal, who is a pretty standard hunky soldier with elite tracking skills and limited personality, but hopefully he will develop more in later volumes.
Shadow and Bone (****) won't be winning awards for originality, but it does tell its story with verve and vigour, building up to an explosive climax. It's a very short novel (360 pages in paperback, but with a fairly genrous font size) but will leave you wanting to jump into the sequel, Siege and Storm, straight away.
But here we are.
Now I’ve already told a bit of a fib there because I didn’t exactly dislike Shadow and Bone – I have read far worse books – but even going into it with lowered expectations, this is not the book I thought it would be.
I fell head over heels in love with Six of Crows last year and it’s now one of my favourite books of all time. Knowing that one of the characters from that book would be making an appearance in King of Scars, I knew I’d have to read her original Grisha trilogy even though it was never a series I was particularly interested in – and at least now I know my gut instincts about this book were right.
I’m not going to sit here and compare Shadow and Bone with Six of Crows because that’s not fair on so many levels. Six of Crows is a heist story while Shadow and Bone is very much a traditional ‘chosen one’ fantasy story, they just so happen to be set in the same world, and if nothing else this book reminded me just how much I love Six of Crows. I love that we can clearly see how much Bardugo is improving with each book because Six of Crows is a masterpiece, so I’m not going to hold it against her that her earlier novel isn’t as accomplished because that’s how being an author works. Usually, authors get better at their craft with each story.
Shadow and Bone has a lot in it to be admired. It’s easy to see how this trilogy took inspiration from and went on to inspire other Russian-inspired fantasy novels, and I did like the setting and the concept of the Shadow Fold.
My main problem with this novel was the characters. I’ve seen Alina Starkov on so many ‘Favourite Heroine’ lists (and that’s nothing against the people who love her at all!) but I found her so… frustrating, and kind of boring. I wanted her to make more decisions for herself earlier in the novel, not only when her childhood friend Mal was in mortal danger. I felt like she spent the entire novel letting herself be pushed around by everyone, and while it could be argued that this was to show her develop when she finally stood up for herself I felt like I never actually knew her well enough to care when she did.
Considering the country of Ravka has been at war for years and has a big shadowy mess of literal monsters in the middle of it, I felt like I spent far too much time with Alina’s boy problems. The Darkling and Mal, and I’m sorry to say this because I know the Darkling is beloved, were kind of boring. In fact especially the Darkling, for me. I don’t think I saw enough of Mal to really have an opinion of him, but I saw plenty of the Darkling and considering he’s literally described as ‘ancient’ in this book I didn’t expect him to act like an angsty teenager.
I’m sure he has some kind of tragic past, and knowing the kind of stories I know Bardugo can write I’m sure I’ll learn more about him and start to like him more as a character (not as a person) as the series continues, but in this book he was just a bully, and I have no interest in romanticising bullies. In fact he was the worst kind of bully by lying and making himself appear to be a friend first; even all the Grisha he was nice to he was essentially using for his own gain, which I would be fine with if he was doing it honestly, but trying to seduce Alina while she thought he was someone he wasn’t? Again I know he’s beloved, but I just thought he was a bit of a creep.
And I suppose that’s the point. At least I hope so. I can’t really be annoyed with the villain for being the villain, but he’s been so romanticised by fans that I was expecting him to be more sympathetic than he is.
As for Mal, I am so bored of the childhood friend who only wants the girl when he sees her with someone else. When he and Alina had scenes together I thought they were pretty sweet – I know, Grisha fans everywhere are aghast – but, like Alina, I didn’t know enough about him or the Darkling or anyone to actually care. Alina and Mal at least had a history between them, but the ‘romance’ between Alina and the Darkling came completely out of the blue for me – or at least it started a lot faster than I was expecting.
This book was published in 2012 and, reading it now, I could really tell. This is very post-Twilight YA with the love triangle featuring a girl with no gumption, a broody bellend and a childhood friend bellend. This is a better book than Twilight and, even though it might not seem it, there was stuff in this book that I did like a lot. My problem was I wanted to know more about the politics and the war and less about how Alina was wearing her hair.
The majority of Shadow and Bone was essentially a set-up for a wider story, but I can’t help feeling it could have been a few chapters at the beginning of another book rather than a whole book by itself.
I do understand why this book is so well-loved and this is very much just my opinion! I think I was ruined for this trilogy reading Six of Crows first, but I’m glad I read the books this way around because I might not have enjoyed this trilogy enough to be inclined to pick Six of Crows up if I’d read Shadow and Bone first.
If nothing else, Shadow and Bone was fun and fast-paced and, even though I didn’t love it, I’m hoping I’ll enjoy the rest of the trilogy and I think a Netflix adaptation will be really fun to watch!
You may have noticed where I drop a star: One voice was off key and weak. I found the sad shallow royal court a stereotype hard to believe: A country at war lead by nincompoops is a device that might be popular but that the pressures and hardships of war is likely to cleanse, especially over centuries! Perhaps there was too little character growth as well. A lack of deeper strategic intelligence behind some of the writing. And yet I can't complain as I found intelligence and surprise enough elsewhere. I was engaged.
More than OK, well above most writing out there. I liked it
The mixed reviews had effectively put me off, but when Six of Crows came out and everyone was raving about this fantastic new duology set in the same world, I just knew I'd end up picking this up eventually. Even if it was just so I didn't feel guilty reading the two series 'out of order'. And I'm glad I did pick this up.
If I'm honest, I still don't really understand what this series is about.This book was more like an introduction to the GrishaVerse as opposed to a plot driven "this is where we're going guys" kind of book. In my opinion there was very little world building. I knew prior to reading this that the world was based on Russian folklore, and you can definitely see the resemblance, and the lack of extensive world building was not a general problem for me. I personally prefer to just get into the story, not be weighed down by an info dump, and that's pretty much what happened in this book.
We follow the story of Alina, a girl suddenly thrust into the world of the magic when she exhibits sun summoner powers on the field of battle. She is taken to the Little Palace, where she learns more about using her powers, and eventually she escapes and goes on the run. Alina's character was not one I particularly loved. I didn't hate her either, but she was just 'weak'. I much preferred the Darkling, or Genya. Alina didn't seem to be doing much other than attending lessons, complaining about lessons, and getting paraded in front of the court, even when she escaped, she did a very poor job of it until Mal showed up. But the one thing I did like about her was the fact she was flawed. I'm hoping she stays flawed, I don't know if I can read about another 'strong-willed girl who is hopelessly in love with two handsome guys and can't choose between the two". I want her to make mistakes.
About halfway through the book I got annoyed with Alina as she blathered on about the Darkling and how amazing he is. I mean, his name is the Darkling, and with a name like that you can't be a good guy (no matter how often he leads you to believe he is). His manipulation over Alina, the fact he used her feelings against her, made him a good, dis-likable character, perfect for any villain or anti-hero.
"'Fine,' he said with a weary shrug, 'make me your villain.'"
I actually really liked the Darkling and all his manipulative ways. He knew he had all the power, and knew how to use it to his favor.
I also like Mal, despite only getting to know him in the final third of the book. He was seriously hurt by Alina, but he was also struggling with his feelings for her. The only thing I didn't like was the fact both male characters of any importance were 'in love with' Alina, and at this stage you can't really tell if there's a love triangle.
The writing was enjoyable. It flowed, and kept my attention, I wasn't dragging myself through the book trying to keep up with the story. It wasn't overly eventful in my opinion, it seemed to be setting up the series, much like Throne of Glass felt to me, and if you lined this up with other fantasy books in the YA genre I probably wouldn't be able to pick it out as different. Despite this though, it was very enjoyable, and I can't wait to carry on with the series.
I got the paperback and the audiobook. The first arrived in perfect condition and the cover is really beautiful (The size of the letters are medium-big). The latter was also very nice, the narrator did a very good job and changed slightly the tone or accent for each character without feeling cringy. I kind of preferred the audiobook.
I liked it quite a lot, easy to read and the plot is nice with a mix of usual and unusual ideas. The magic system is interesting though I would have like a little more development of it.
But I didn't like a lot of characters, most of them were just made to be hated and that's it... also if the characters weren't main characters I didn't think they were really well developed either and almost none of those were really significant in the plot.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Alina is nothing but a lowly cartographer until she demonstrates an incredible power and The Darkling, leader of the army called the Grisha, takes her under his wing and into a world she could only dream of. However the Shadow Fold is trying to take over the land and Alina's power is needed to combat it.
I really liked that this had a Russian setting, you don't see that often, it brings something different to the table. The world building is so good, you really get a feel for the political climate of the country of Ravka and the Grisha.
Alina being a cartographer was a really unusual, it was good to see a different job than the standard kind of army stuff you see in books like this. On top of that it shows that there are important jobs that aren't physical, that to have a good female lead they don't always have to be all singing, all dancing fighters.
I loved The Darkling and how charming he was as a character. You're really swept up into his personality but also at the back of your mind you know something isn't quite right with him. That also makes the love triangle more captivating than normal, it's not your standard "who do you prefer" because you know that something is off.
On the whole I'm intrigued to see where the rest of the novel goes, it wasn't perfect, there was the occasional bit that felt formulaic, but I have no idea where the rest of it is going to go and the writing is so easy to read and enjoy.
What I loved.
Bardugo's writing is beautiful and lovely to read while the plot moves quickly without feeling rushed.
The Russian-esque tilt of the story is wonderful. I don't think I've ever seen this in a fantasy novel before. It's subtly woven into the story so that it melds into the fantasy aspects, giving the world an entirely unique feel and (I hope) opening up lots of possibilities for the rest of the trilogy.
The Grisha world was really well done in it's own right. The complex structures within the Grisha ranks, the beauty of the Little Palace and all the little details - such as the Grisha's coloured keftas, strange habit of eating trumped up peasant foods.
The ending was brilliant. I'm so used to seeing characters who beat the odds by doing the right thing and make sacrifices for the greater good. I really liked that in the final conflict on the Unsea Alina decides (and that bit's important) to act selfishly, saving herself and Mal even though it means abandoning the other Grisha and the ambassadors.
What I was less keen on.
I felt the love triangle aspect wasn't really necessary to the story. The Darkling is a really interesting villain and would have had just as much impact as a friend or mentor.
The catty cliquey high-school girls scenes. I felt like Zoya especially had no other purpose than to play the part of 'mean girl' without any real reason.
Amazing writing, complex storyline but not hard to follow with deep and wonderfully developed characters. This was quickly absorbing and totally unpredictable. The description was perfectly pitched, not too heavy but I was able to paint the world easily in my mind. I listened on audio and the narration was superb.
I favour the Darkling. Does that make me dark?
I instantly loved Alina. She's a young woman who gets thrown into a destiny she couldn't want less, with a power she can't control and doesn't want to possess, against odds she can't hope to survive. I can't tell if I loved her for her, or because she reminded me of my girl Rachael - either way, I adored her!
Because I read the duology first I came to Shadow and Bone with a different view point - the places, the people, the events that play such a big, vital part in Shadow and Bone I'd already heard of. Because of this I felt like I was coming back to a world I already loved, despite not having seen these places in the duology. The familiarity was there, and it was wonderful.
Two things stood out above all others for me. One is the Russian mythology that plays a big part in this trilogy. I've actually done a bit of digging and love how Bardugo has adepted Russian folklore to fit her world! The world building is excellent, but then I already knew that ;) The second highlight is Alina, and how she copes with her situation. She's far away from familiarity when she arrives at the Little Palace, and doesn't know who she can trust. Her own power is a mystery to her, and I loved seeing how she coped as the story went on.
I also love Genya. End of story <3
If you're looking for a fantastic fantasy trilogy, or if you loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, then I urge you to read Shadow and Bone!
I would recommend this book mainly because of the main character's emotional journey.. She makes mistakes and corrects them, doesn't let others shame her and apologises when necessary. She's sharp but not heartless, innocent but not idiotic and a good friend.
Parts of the book are written so beautifully but the most striking things are the growth of Alina's mindset and the sharp twist that the story takes. Definitely worth a read!