This has been on my TBR list for a while, so I’m glad that I finally read it. Since I read this for the Bout of Books read-a-thon and was on vacation at the time, I got through it very quickly, in two days actually. I think that’s the fastest I’ve read a book this year. This was possible because Shadow and Bone is a quick read. It is fast-paced and there’s hardly a dull moment.
Genre: young-adult fantasy
Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal — and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart — and her country — in two.
My thoughts: (spoilers)
Apart from it languishing on my TBR for three years, I also read this book out of curiousity. Many booktubers and bloggers have mentioned the series and the Darkling as well and I wanted to know what it was about and just what this Darkling thing is.
I like how the story begins. For me, that was the strongest point of the book because it started going downhill as I got closer to the middle. The story is not an original one but I liked it regardless: an unassuming girl realizes she has a power that can rid her world of its evil. I’m a sucker for such stories, especially if the girl starts out weak and gets stronger by the end when she accepts who she is, which is what happens in this book.
The turning point that I referred to above is when Alina begins falling for the Darkling. I knew it would happen but I didn’t want it to. We begin the story knowing she has a crush on her childhood friend, Mal, so when she begins developing feelings for the Darkling, I was annoyed. The love triangle has been overused in YA novels so a hint at it in this one turned me off. Luckily, the potential love triangle here is misleading.
Speaking of the romance, the Darkling’s first kiss was totally unexpected. I mean, I knew that it was coming eventually but the first time he kissed her, it threw me, and I became even more upset with the trajectory of the story. But later when everything I thought I knew got flipped, I realized how well that kiss worked. It tricked both Alina and me, confused us, and made us forget whatever it was we were thinking before the kiss. Actually, if I were to graph my enjoyment of this book, it would be U-shaped. It increased at the beginning, dropped when Alina started catching feelings for the Darkling, and began building again towards the end.
As for the characters, I’m not a fan of Alina, which is a major reason why my enjoyment dipped in the middle. I guess I need to like the protagonist in some way to enjoy the story. Alina starts out unsure of herself, which I was okay with, and slowly begins gaining confidence, which was great as well. But then she started asking some obvious questions, which annoyed me. I also didn’t like that scene where Genya and Alina burst into Zoya’s room and commandeered her mirror thereby making Alina feel better about herself by shaming Zoya. Yes, Zoya is an ass but by doing that, Alina is acting just like her.
Speaking of Zoya, I was disappointed in her character development. When she’s seen in the early parts of the novel, she threatened to be an obstacle to Alina but as the story continues, she fades away. Sure the Darkling spoke to her and told her not to bother Alina but I expected more conflict between her and Alina. Maybe that occurs in the other books. I also have a theory about Zoya. I think she was close to the Darkling before Alina came along, maybe sleeping with him too. Something like that because otherwise I don’t see why Zoya disliked Alina before she knew anything about her or her powers.
As for the other characters: I’m not a fan of Mal though I prefer how he is towards the end of the story. He waited too long to finally realize that he loves Alina (rolls eyes). I don’t trust Genya. She’s seems nice but I think she’s closer to the Darkling than Alina realizes. And what’s up with the Apparat? He’s so odd. I hope I’ll find out more about him in the next installment.
Of course, the Darkling was the most appealing character, more than Alina. As his name implies, he is dark and mysterious. For some reason, I thought the Darkling was a thing and not a person prior to reading the book. That’s probably because I’m used to evil creatures being referred to as darklings in fantasy novels and shows. And because of that background, I didn’t believe he had an ounce of good in him as I read along. He is quite an enigmatic character but when his intentions are revealed, he fell flat and became the stereotypical evil villain. I hope he gains more complexity in the next installment. I also kept imagining Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist whenever I think about the Darkling. I have no idea why.
I’m not a big fan of this world but I like that it has Russian influences. I don’t know much about Russia except a bit about the Romanovs and Rasputin so the bits that were included were new to me but I liked them. However, I think certain aspects of this world could have been explained better, like the Grisha system/classification. Alina was familiar with the different types of Grisha and what they do but since I was not and it wasn’t adequately explained, I kept thinking that I’d missed something, like a paragraph or page where it was explained.
I also think the novel should have a glossary because I didn’t get some of the terms unique to the world until after it had been used a few times.
It was an okay read. It’s the type of story I usually like and if not for Alina and the Darkling’s character development, I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more. It reminds me of Alison Goodman’s Eon so if you’re a fan of that sort story where the protagonist starts out weak and gets stronger and (maybe) kicks ass, then I recommend Shadow and Bone to you.
Siege and Storm (book 2) —>
Other thoughts on the book
- Thoughts: The Darkling From Shadow and Bone (jbookish.wordpress.com)
- Review: ‘Shadow and Bone’ The Grisha Trilogy #1 by Leigh Bardugo (greenskiesandbluegrass.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (bookpail.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (thesassygeek.wordpress.com)