6 Rated BooksSHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

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In anticipation of the Netflix show, Thea is re-immersing in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and re-reading the Shadow and Bone and the Six Crows books! Today she is dealing with the book that started it all: Shadow and bone.

title: Shadow and bone
author: Lei Bardugo
genre: Fantasy, young people
Publisher: Square fish
Date published: June 5, 2012
paperback: 358 pages

Surrounded by enemies, the great nation of yesteryear, Rebecca, is torn in two by the fold of shadows, a piece of almost impenetrable darkness that creeps in with monsters circling over human flesh. Now his fate may rest on the shoulders of one lone refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her battalion is attacked in Fold and her best friend is brutally wounded, Alina reveals a dormant force that saves his life – a force that could be the key to liberating a war-torn country. Alina is confused by everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to practice as a member in Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

But nothing in this glorious world is what it seems. As darkness approaches and an entire kingdom depends on its unbridled power, Alina will have to deal with the secrets of the expulsion. . . And core secrets.

Shadow and Bone is the first episode in Leigh Bardugo’s Grish trilogy.

Standalone or series: Book 1 in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and some of the overall Grishabers

How I got this book: acquired

format: Softcover

Review

A map maker, tracker and ageless power march to the battlefield, and nothing will ever be the same.

Alina Starkov – the maker of the maps – has lived all her life by lowering her head. Always a little sickly, always a little fragile and awkward and unattractive and clumsy, Alina enlisted in Rebecca’s first army partly out of civic duty (and coercion), but more importantly to stay connected to her good friend and her disappointed love, Mal. Mal – the tracker – young and handsome and carefree, already known in the ranks of his battalion as a tracker and an incredibly good seducer of beautiful women (including Grisha), even though he is Alina’s oldest and closest friend. Mal and Alina find themselves on the battlefield aboard the Skippers and enter the Fold – an area that disconnects Rebecca from other countries with the impassable darkness, full of monsters. As they enter the fold, something very strange happens – when Mal is attacked by Valkara and the couple is on the verge of certain death, Alina unleashes an unexpected ability to time light, and fend off monsters and darkness.

Nothing like this has ever happened to Rebecca. There are other grishas – magicians, small science experts and Second Army warriors – including those who can maneuver the natural elements (etherealki), those who are experts at the limits of the human body (corporalki), and those who can maneuver composites to their edges (materialki). The closest thing to Alina’s power is Etheralki of unparalleled power: Huffling, an age-old, powerful Grisha who commands the Second Army, with the ability to summon darkness.

Huffling – the ageless powerhouse – immediately takes an interest in Alina, inviting her to practice as a chaser and unlocking her true potential. Unlike Mal and the life that Alina has known in the past, for the first time she grows into herself and her abilities. She becomes more confident, stronger, and yet … more conflicted at every step of the way. As Alina adapts to her golden environment, she begins to doubt everything – especially the appalling, and its motives.

When I first read (and reviewed) Shadow and bone, I was also invested in the world, and also a bit overwhelmed by characters. In this re-reading, almost a decade later, this initial observation still holds. I * love * the concept of “no sea” (the fold of the shadow), of Grisha, and a world separated by monsters and darkness from some unknown source. And many years later, I know how much time and effort Leigh Bardugo has invested in this world and its inhabitants, and can appreciate the great scope of the expulsion, of Rebecca, of Xu Han and the politics and elections that shape it. This world.

But I can not deny that even in re-reading this book, there are many problematic elements.

All the cards on the table: The whole arc of Alina’s character is a bit … well, Twi. I should note that it is a little unfair to read this book in a vacuum because Alina becomes So much more In books 2 and 3, but to judge book 1 on its own? Yes, you can not really deny the fact that her rainbow is read like a page from the post-twilight-heroine game book. Alina is eaten up by what Mel thinks about her, and what the darkness thinks of her, and what the other expulsion thinks of her – her focus is completely outside herself, and her character’s growth seems to be related to her becoming more beautiful (and less awkward). And embarrassing) and other people’s perceptions about it. The two areas of love in this book are similarly dominant, domineering and unintentionally crappy. Huffling is tempting and Dark And nervous and almost immortal and calling out to Alina’s emerging power as he tries to control her. Mal is domineering, jealous and judgmental, accusing Alina of loving her golden cage (and the darkness) too much. Not to mention the fact that Mel has signed up for a secret mission to bring a powerful man to Alina to feel, as it were, closer to her, and yet accuse her of manipulating the darkness, and so on. In other words – all the bad, offensive. The friend’s red flags are flying full mast in this first novel.

and yet.

Despite these flags, there is no denying that in itself, Shadow and bone Still incredibly compelling. Alina’s arc, though completely predictable, is still strong in her choices. The fact that Alina is an outsider, that she feels lonely and isolated, that she struggles with another Grisha and also with her best friend, is as empathetic as hell and I really admire her ability to make choices as her story goes away. Similarly, Alina’s relationships with other female characters – Zoya and Genia in particular – have nuances, and have so many implications for the rest of the series.

It is impossible to read a series again without also appreciating the things that will come. Things I did not notice so much the first time but I liked this time:

The importance and quiet power of Bagra, Alina’s teacher when she arrives at the palace.

The spectacle of the expulsion and how the entire kingdom of Rebecca decays on itself slowly, with its preoccupation with glamor and beauty.

The beginning of the realization that absolute power is utterly corrupting – especially for Grisha, including Alina herself.

Shadow and bone It is very much a first novel, unpolished (and the red flags of the above friend), but there are so many promises in this book that it is worth staying on the road.

I’m both more invested and more critical on second reading, and can not wait to dive into the rest of the Grishaverse to appreciate the rest.

Rating: 6 – Good, but with some reservations

The re-reading continues later with Siege and storm (Book 2 in the Shadow and Bone trilogy)

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