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Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) Hardcover
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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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.
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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.
You know how most books, it starts off really slow, and as the plot finally thickens it catches your attention? This is not one of those books, it immediately drew me in and had me asking for more. I am only glad that I had all 3 books together before I started this series. She included plenty of twists and turns in her plot, slowly revealing each at just the right time. The characters were complex and continually grew throughout the book, and had literally skipped hours instead of sleep just to finish this gem.. (who needs sleep right?!) The character development was just as spectacular as the world itself. Her characters actually make mistakes and realize them and try to grow from them and be better. No one is perfect in these books. I actually loved the fact that you are confused on whether or not to root for who is the bad guy. At the end of the book I wasn't so full of questions that I felt would need to be explained further, for every thing that happened she showed, rather than told the answers. I loved the writing, so vivid, and imaginative and not over the top. I adored this book so much. The story line actually followed the characters, not the other way around. I recommend picking this book up and reading it!
Alina Starkov is a teenage girl living within the kingdom of Ravka, a place where those with supernatural abilities are called the Grisha. Some abilities include the power to summon/control water, damage/heal internal organs, alter physical appearances, manipulate the wind, etc. Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds.
Ravka is currently divided in half by the Shadow Fold, a large stretch of land plagued in eternal darkness, its only inhabitants being flying, milky eyed, razor fanged, flesh eating monsters… yeah. Is that an awesome plot or what? Like, I don’t want to go there or anything, but I will certainly watch this unfold from afar.
So what can an ordinary teenage girl do about this? Nothing, except probably fill a monster’s stomach briefly. But Alina is no ordinary girl, and may even have the ability to conquer this abyss along side: the Darkling. A mysterious, beautiful, endlessly fascinating, and terrifying Grisha that has the rare ability to call darkness.
What I liked about the book:
○ The Universe. A vast, detailed, mysterious landscape that I want to explore every nook and cranny of
○ The Storyline. There's a stretch of land that is just...black. Absolute darkness. The only occupants are ghastly, human eating ghouls that announce their presence by the flap of their wings and the sound of their fangs ripping through flesh. Awesome. For the first time in a while I was 100% devoted to the plot and not just the characters
○ The Pacing. I could not put this book down! It rarely ran into a dry or dull moment. I think a lot of that had to do with the mysteriousness of the Darkling — each chapter we would get just a snippet of him that leaves you whirling with questions
○ The Darkling. An incredibly mysterious and fascinating character
Why this book lost a star:
○ The Protagonist. Seriously, Alina has as much depth as an igloo. And there’s no escaping it because the entire book is in her POV. She doesn’t do all that much. She complains, criticizes herself, says she has no talents, compares herself to others, is plain stupid, etc etc. Here she is with this wondrous power that may be able to save lives, yet all she can focus on is her appearance. How annoying.
○ Mal. Mal is Alina’s childhood best friend that she has been secretly in love with since she was 15 years old (because a book cannot have a childhood friendship just be a childhood friendship). He was likable enough at the beginning, but not that interesting. He treats Alina like a friend, flirts/hooks up with other girls, is overly arrogant and cocky, etc. And then we don’t see him for most of the book. We see more memories of Alina and him growing up than actual present day Mal. How am I expected to care about a character I have barely seen?
○ The Ending. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a bad ending. In fact, most people would probably enjoy the ending. But for me, due to my lack of connection with some of the characters, I didn’t care for it.
I thought Alina’s character was weak and irritating, while Mal was bland and lackluster. However, the storyline, universe, and pacing made me love this book. I will be continuing this series solely for the dark, mysterious, and creepy world, and because I really enjoyed the Darkling's character and want to see how his story progreses