By: Celine | July 22, 2014 | (24) Comments

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha, #1
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Source: Bought it
Goodreads | Purchase

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 fulfill 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?

Shadow and Bone… Such a tricky little book. Every time I told people that I hadn’t read this series yet, their reactions were somewhat similar to “what!? WHY???”, so naturally I decided to listen to the smart bookish people and order the entire series at once, because why not?


I’m not saying I didn’t like this book – I did! – but I also think I could have spent that money on other books I would’ve liked more. Then again, I always think that when a book I bought turns out to be anywhere below 4 star. (Seriously, most of the books on my shelf are 4 star and up.) On the whole, I liked this first installment in the Grisha series, but to say I’m so extremely happy I already have the sequel because OMG NEED NOW? Nahh. That doesn’t mean I won’t read it, and hopefully love it.

So yeah, for the actual review now. Like I said, I had some issues with this book. Most of them boil down to the characters. You see – I’m a character oriented reader. I need something to connect to, need to feel the characters and root for them. Plot without character rarely works for me, and the main problem with Shadow and Bone is that there neither enough plot nor enough character. Our main character, Alina, is a bit feisty at times, but she mostly felt like a blank slate to me. Even after I finished the book, I didn’t feel I had any grasp on her character whatsoever, because – to me- it feels like she doesn’t have one. I loved her when she was all strong and used her powers and talked back to people, but there’s too much space in between those moments where she just… exists.

The other characters didn’t fare much better with me: the only three sort of fleshed out are Alina, the Darkling and Mal. Even though I know most people dislike him (or maybe that was after book 2? I don’t remember), I kind of liked him. He was sweet and utterly loyal to Alina, but he felt a bit too much like the stereotypical I’d-do-anything-I’d-die-for-you hero for my tastes. And then there is the Darkling.


SO many people mentioned being absolutely charmed by his darkly seductive ways despite, or maybe because of, his slightly villain-y ways. I was expecting this self-confident, smooth-talking man who makes you want to do nothing but swoon. I was fully prepared to go into KISS-NOW mode, but yeah, nothing. I felt nothing for him at all. I didn’t see that extremely seductive and just-a-little-too-much-on-the-dark-side man I was hoping for. I didn’t see much at all, really. Oh, he has character all right, but did he do anything for me? Nope. I couldn’t care less.

I will say I really liked the world-building. Bardugo created a land with much imagination and attention to detail. From the ranks of different soldiers to the color of the embroidery on the kefta’s, everything was amazingly detailed. And not in an oh-lord-stop-already-with-the-descriptions way, but in a way that fit the story and added to it. I really enjoyed reading Bardugo’s Ravka.

The plot both delighted and disappointed me. Let me explain. The book was intruiging, there’s no doubt about it. However, there’s this part in the middle where Alina is in the same place for quite some time, and I felt not enough happened during that time. I wasn’t bored or anything, far from it, but I just felt more should happen? I don’t know, it’s a confusing feeling, but something just felt a little off. There were shocking twists and stuff, but I think maybe because of the lack of connection I felt to the characters, they just didn’t really affect me, making it feel as though not much was happening.

But then in the end, when everything came together, it was magnificent. The climax was constructed carefully and it showed and it was powerful, guys. The ending was really what I liked most about the book. The stakes are raised and you’re not sure everything’s going to work out and oh shit, and badassery happened. That ending was amazing.

In all, though, I feel this review has been pretty negative. I didn’t really mean for that to happen, because now it kinda sounds like a one-star read when it was far from that. I guess I just have more to say about the things I disliked than the things I liked, but let it be clear that there were plenty of things I did like. Shadow and Bone was plotted cleverly and with a richly imagined world. I can totally understand where the hype is coming from, and I think that if you connect to the characters the book is as a whole more powerful and amazing. I’m still impressed, but also disappointed because I’d expected to absolutely LOVE this like everyone else. Alas. Let’s hope the sequel clicks better with me.

3.5 Stars
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Celine is 17 years old and from the Netherlands. Quite obviously, she loves books! She has been a reader for as long as she can remember, and she believes she will be a reader forever. Celine is also obsessed with food, and loves singing along to music as loud as possible, dancing and doodling on nearly everything.

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24 Responses to Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  1. Jaz says:

    That’s ok Mel – I don’t think your review is that negative. Imo 3.5/5 is pretty good (I give most books 3-4 stars these days). I agree with the fantastic world building. It’s funny, all those things you didn’t like about the book, actually made me love the book. Especially the Darkling (I like his boyish charm and found his mysteriousness really seductive lol) and Alina’s struggle in the middle!

    When you decide to get around to S&S, you MAY find that Sturmhond is a character you will like.

    Hopefully your next read is more enjoyable (:
    Jaz recently posted…Review: Landline by Rainbow RowellMy Profile

    • Jaz says:

      OHMYGOD I’M SO SORRY CELINE HAHA I THOUGHT THIS WAS MEL! Only after I scrolled past and commented did I see the “posted by Celine” at the bottom. I AM SO SORRY LOL *hugs*

    • Celine says:

      Haha, I really *hoped* I would love the Darkling… Alas. I did like Alina’s struggle in the middle because it was realistic, but I somehow felt that aside from that not enough was happening? I don’t know, it’s hard to explain 😛

      I already read S&S and STURMHOOND. He is amazing, haha.

      Also, you’re forgiven, no worries 😛

  2. I really love this series and I think it gets better after this for one reason: Stormhund. I hope you’ll love him! I do. =)
    Bieke @ Istyria book blog recently posted…Bookish Babble: My Favorite Animated MoviesMy Profile

  3. Sarah P. says:

    Aww, I’m quite apprehensive just for a moment because I thought you didn’t like Shadow and Bone at all but I’m glad it wasn’t the case. Like you, I love characters that I can connect to, and while I managed to relate to Alina, I’m sad that she wasn’t able to do it for you. I totally know what you mean by feeling a little off and based on my experience, I usually attribute this to a book being so highly recommended and full of hype that my expectations are really up high and this proves to be the downfall of the book, if the expectations aren’t met. I do hope you’d continue with the series though and find it more to your liking. 🙂
    Sarah P. recently posted…Review: Prep School Confidential (PSC #1) by Kara TaylorMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      Yes, the hype certainly didn’t help! I’m always a bit wary when books are so hyped up because they always tend to disappoint me 🙁

      I did pick up the sequels, and I enjoyed them much more than I did Shadow and Bone 🙂

  4. Rashika says:

    I feel your pain, Celine. My heart breaks every time I read a book I own that I don’t end up loving. It really sucks that this one didn’t work out for you though especially since so many people loved it.

    I am actually one of the few people who wasn’t taken by The Darkling. I can see his appeal to other readers… but to me he’s just an asshole.. 😛

    I hope the sequel will (was since I am gathering you already read it??) be better for you!! 🙂

    Lovely review, Celine!!

    • Celine says:

      It just sucks to end up not loving a widely popular book… Fortunately I didn’t hate it, haha. Also, good to see I’m not alone in my “dislike” (though maybe that’s too strong of a word) of the Darkling. he was kinda asshole-ish 😛

      I did already read it, yes, and I enjoyed it much more 🙂 Thanks, Rashika <33

  5. Melanie says:

    It’s good to see that you enjoyed this one as a whole, Celine! Yes that ending was amazing. I cannot wait to meet this Strumhond person in bk 2, though I don’t feel all that motivated to pick up fantasies right now.

    Fabulous review, lovely! <33

    • Celine says:

      I hope you like Sturmhond, I thought he was amazing 😀 Though don’t push yourself to read fantasy if you’re not feeling it right now 🙂

      Thanks, hun <33

  6. Tanja says:

    I think I’m a bit biased when it comes to fantasy. You know there are people who just need a swoon-worthy boy to love a book, well I just need a new world and character that I can connect with and there it is. So yeah I loved this one. I’m so sorry you didn’t, but I’m sure you enjoyed Strumhond 😉 Great review 🙂
    Tanja recently posted…The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBanMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      Haha, I don’t necessarily need a hot boy either (I see that more as a nice bonus), but I failed to connect to the characters 🙁 Sturmhond is the best, haha. Thanks!

  7. Nara says:

    Looking at the points you’ve brought up in your review, I think you’ll probably enjoy the sequel more! A really awesome character is introduced (I’m sure you’ve heard of Sturmhond already lol), and several of the other characters get a lot more development (especially Alina).

    And yeah…Darkling :/ Doesn’t do it for me either. Slightly too evil, methinks haha

    Sidenote: I tend to only buy books I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy/books I’ve already read and rated 4+ stars as well! Hardly any of my shelf books are 3 star and below (mostly because I shove them onto my brother’s bookshelf/my coblogger if I don’t enjoy them haha)

    • Celine says:

      I already read the sequel and you’re so right 🙂 I loved everyone’s character development and Sturmhond (of course).

      Yeah, I was kinda disappointed by the Darkling. I normally don’t even mind evil guys, but the Darkling was just meh, haha.

      Haha, well, I don’t have anyone to give my books away to (shipping overseas is super expensive 🙁 ) but I tend to pick them out very carefully. Right now, I think I have only two books on my shelves that were below 4 stars, haha. They were 3.5 and 3 stars, I think.

  8. I totally get your feelings. I’m also a character-oriented reader, and when the characters fall flat for me, so does the story. It does sound like it gets better though, so I’ll probably get around to reading Shadow and Bone sometime in the near future!
    Kris @Imaginary Reads recently posted…Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan StroudMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      Yes, and it’s also quite personal, because Mel, for example, really enjoyed the characters. For what it’s worth, though, I thought the sequels were much better 🙂

  9. I know what you mean, there were parts were I was totally invested in this book and other parts that my mind drifted. I missed the Darkling and I hated all the unnecessary romance stumbles. I still will read the third book but it isn’t a drop everything and read it now priority.
    Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings recently posted…Tell Me Something Tuesday #66: Favorite Reading SpotsMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      Yeah, and I always feel it sucks extra hard when it’s a book that’s generally LOVED so much. If you ever get around to reading Ruin and Rising, do tell me what you thought of it 😀

  10. Celine, that is basically EXACTLY how I felt about Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Everyone basically loves it, and the covers are so beautiful, so I purchased the series expecting to love it like everyone else… and nope. I didn’t even get through the first book. I tried three times until I finally decided it just wasn’t for me.

    I’m sorry this didn’t have the WOW factor for you, yet I’m so happy you overall enjoyed it regardless. 🙂 Great review, sweets!
    Lisa @ Lost in Literature recently posted…Review: Boomerang by Noelle AugustMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      First: awww, I’m so sorry you didn’t love Daughter of Smoke and Bone! It’s one of my favourite series of all time, though I do think the first book is the weakest (it was still a five star read for me, though, so make of that what you will, haha). But it’s always sad when you don’t like a series that is loved by most people!

      Thanks, Lisa <33

  11. I just won this in a giveaway, in fact the whole trilogy, and I’m eager to read it. I love YA fantasy so I think I’m going to love this one, and I’m glad I’ve got the other two so after I finish it I can jump straight into book 2. Great review, thanks for sharing.
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  12. Kelly says:

    I haven’t been able to pick up this series yet, as I always assumed it would be too similar to the Throne of Glass series, which I couldn’t get into. It sounds not bad though, despite of the few problems you had with it. Awesome review, might check this one and see how I go <3
    Kelly recently posted…Broken Strings by Maria FarrerMy Profile

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