Published by Henry Holt and Company on June 5, 2012
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.
I dragged my feet with starting The Grishaverse series, because there’s such a huge, intense fandom that loves it, and I was afraid I’d be that odd duck who didn’t. I’m glad I finally read Shadow and Bone, because it was a good read, but like I feared, I didn’t think it was amazing. I ended up feeling like it was just an average YA high fantasy. You can see some of my likes and dislikes below –
Alina, because her character was well-conceived. She doesn’t suddenly become a formidable bad-ass because she discovers she has powers. Alina has very little physical and emotional strength to begin with, so when it’s revealed that she has the potential to be great, and make a difference in the world, she spends the rest of the book strengthening her body, mind, and magical abilities.
The mystery surrounding The Darkling was really intriguing and exciting. He’s that dark, brooding, mysterious and attractive male character who always draws my interest in books. His motivations and agenda was so hard to grasp, and it made me want to understand him desperately. He seemed to toe the line between light and dark, but maybe he didn’t? Maybe he already had chosen a side but he wouldn’t or couldn’t reveal it? He’s a really deep character, and it drove me nuts not knowing who or what he really was.
There are some magic-wielding Grishas who can control fire and wind – been there done that – and then there’s some who have the really cool ability to manipulate and mold materials like metal and bone. That was so cool! So unique!
What I didn’t like:
The pace was very slow. A good chunk of this book takes place at the Grisha palace, where Alina is strengthening her body and her powers. This section bored me. The Darkling is off doing mysterious things, and I constantly wished that he’d return. The story felt dull when he wasn’t apart of it.
Alina and Mal… ugh. I liked their friendship, their shared childhood history, and interactions, because it’s super heartwarming, but the idea of them romantically involved just rubbed me the wrong way. There’s comfort and sweetness there, but no passion. Their relationship was familiar and steady, but lacked sizzle. I much preferred the idea of Alina and The Darkling getting together, because they’re both the most powerful magic users in the world, and therefore relate to each other in a way they can’t relate with anyone else. Plus: The Darkling bursts with sex appeal and allure – yum!
The ending of Shadow and Bone was really surprising, and a tiny bit epic, so I really hope book two builds on that and ends up being smashing.