Series: The Grisha, #1
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Source: Bought it
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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.
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