Friday, February 5, 2016

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha, Book One
Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: 21 July 2014 (First published: 5 June 2012)
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Laini Taylor.
(summary from Goodreads)

Shadow and Bone had the potential to be amazing but instead loses itself to a mediocre romance.

I was all set to love this book. For years there's been such raving about this series, and with the release of its spin off, Six of Crows, it was about time I finally read it. What a let down. There's things to this novel that are great. The Russian like setting and old time feel to it, the magic and the Grisha that wield it, the history of this world and the Shadow Fold, the truth of the volcra and the mythology of the stag. So many details that are quite fantastic and could make for a truly engaging and awesome read. Really, I wanted to lose myself in this world of Bardugo's, but it just wasn't enough. As the story is narrated by Alina, who knows pretty much nothing and doesn't care to, the world building is lacking. It doesn't expand on everything I'd have loved to learn more about. Bardugo describes the castles and the landscapes in detail, but I would I have liked to read more about the Grisha and their magic, about the Darkling's agenda and power, about the why's of the hierarchy and clique-y nature of the Grisha. As it stands it feels like we're given just enough to show us this is how it is, because it is, and that's that. Instead Shadow and Bone focused on the romantic angst of Alina and...well, I was not a fan.

I seriously grew to dislike Alina and that effected my judgment of this book as a whole. I don't think Alina could be any more thoughtless, boring or downright uncomplex. The only thing slightly interesting about Alina is her one of a kind special snowflake Grisha power that is necessary to save the world. And even in that she kind of sucked. All Alina cared about was how Mal and the Darkling felt about her. Like she had no worth outside of what cute broody guys thought of her. Even her power was tied up in that and honestly, it pissed me off. I get suppressing it as a child, not wanting to be separated from the only friend and family she'd known, but come on. I would have much preferred Alina want to learn everything about her power, the Grisha, and the world she'd found herself thrown into. To simply question and dig deeper rather than blindly do what she's told. To have her power tied to her own self-worth would have been brilliant! But nope. I adore romance, but I've found myself seriously unimpressed with romance within non-romance genres, like fantasy and so on, lately. I hated the romance of Shadow and Bone. I didn't care for Mal at all and so Alina's pining was irritating. I was intrigued by the Darkling and think this novel would have benefited from more of him simply as a complex character and antagonist than another guy for Alina to get twisted up over. If Shadow and Bone was less romance drama secondary characters like Baghra, Genya and David could have shone even more. The plot just needed to shift focus away from Alina's non-stop pining to developing more character complexities and world building, and Shadow and Bone would have been an epic fantasy.

I have plans to continue this series, in the hope the world is explored better, so I'll see how that goes. I just want more of the Grisha world! Everything fascinating about Shadow and Bone is drowned by everything Alina and her self-pity. 



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