Shadow and Bone #1, Grishaverse #1
Other Books: Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising, Six of Crows
Published by Square Fish on May 7, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Shadow and Bone could have been better – a lot better.
What annoyed me: Alina Starkov.
There is this thing about characters: there are lots of different types – the desperate ones, the annoying ones, the mopey ones, the overly happy ones, the sassy ones, etc.
Alina is the mopey one for – wait for it – a whopping half of the book. It takes her literally half of the book to realize that maybe she should stop being so mopey over Mal, or stop being so insecure about herself and comparing herself to a Grisha of what? Ten plus years? Really, it almost stalls the book as the character tries to get her bearings and a love triangle developing (I’ve pretty much decided if one couple happens, I’ll have a field day.).
I didn’t belong in this beautiful world, and if I didn’t find a way to use my power, I never would.
She’s also the desperate one – a very dangerous combination to put with mopey. Certainly not as desperate as Eon(a), as Alina doesn’t resort to doing anything stupid or harmful to herself. She’s more of the, “I can’t do this, I can’t fit in with the others, why am I doing this, etc.” type of person rather than, “Hey! Here’s how I can fit in and be more manly: pump myself up with sun drugs!” (Admit it – that was totally Eona in Eon. Alina doesn’t dress up as a guy to be a Grisha in Shadow and Bone if anyone’s wondering. That would certainly be a fun plot twist to see though!)
What actually kept me reading, aka what kept me from throwing my arms up in exasperation: the idea and the setting.
Based off Imperial Russia, Bardugo’s depiction of Ravka seems magical – the Grisha and the Shadow Fold seem to fit in nicely into the story without many hiccups if there’s even any.
The Grisha idea is pure genius – no guide needed, even though it took me awhile (okay, 30 pages) to actually figure out how to tell which Grisha from Grisha (in common, sensible terms that I understand). As much as it may sound really complicated, it’s actually pretty simple.
The first in the Grisha trilogy has a fantastic idea set in a mystical version of Russia, but it really could have done better (I’m probably sounding like a broken record now). With the fear of the sequel being worse than the first one (or any terrifying possibility), I’m almost afraid to pick up the second book.