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.
Tell Me More: Much of my childhood was spent in the quiet suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I lived a rather ordinary life during the day. But at night, my mother would tell me bedtime stories of a decidedly extraordinary nature–stories of terrifying creatures hiding in the deep forests of the Philippine islands, of witches and healers and dwarves that would crouch beside you and untie your shoelaces. She told me of a day when she found herself sitting near an aswang, the Philippine equivalent of a demonic vampire, and the way her uncle chased it off with a shotgun. These stories were weaved into my imagination and appreciation of Filipino culture, so to come across a novel like Shadow and Bone is absolutely marvelous.
The richness and terror so often lacking in YA fantasy is very much present in this novel, and they combine to create an unforgettable experience for any reader. From beginning to end, Leigh Bardugo’s writing is solid, powerful and detailed enough to quence any reader’s thirst for information. The descriptions are stunning and Ravka practically builds itself in the reader’s mind. I had to pause at least two dozen times while reading just to savour Bardugo’s prose.
Just as beautifully constructed were the characters that populated Ravka and the neighboring areas. From the nameless soldiers to the dynamic Grisha, each character was carefully written to have a purpose in the story. The various monsters were haunting and terrifying, giving me bone-chilling moments where I remembered my mom’s bedtime stories. I was especially impressed (and okay, scared) by the volcra. Bardugo doesn’t just play around with danger in this story; she makes the danger real for her readers, and she raises the stakes for her characters.
Alina Starkov’s brilliance might not have been as strong and obvious without the foil of these supporting characters and creatures. And oh, does Alina shine–her character arc in this first installment is so satisfying to witness. I loved the reality of her insecurities and the strength of her spirit. She falls into the same category as Katniss Everdeen, in that I think she’s a full and complete person without a love interest. That said, I am looking forward to where Bardugo takes Alina next.
The Final Say: It sparked my imagination and made me love characters I never expected to ever encounter. Shadow and Bone is a book you can’t afford to miss.
Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, raised in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. She lives in Hollywood and indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as makeup artist L.B. Benson.
Still curious about Leigh and Shadow and Bone? Be sure to check back on June 12, 2012 for a guest post by Leigh herself!