Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

7:29 PM

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo | Rating: ★★★★★

They are orphans again, with no true home but each other and whatever life they can make together on the other side of the sea.

OH MY GOD, you guys. This book. I'm completely in a pile of emotions over here. I read it in one sitting, after just procrastinating picking it up for a while--much like I did with Throne of Glass. Except, in this case, I cannot fathom why it took me so long to get up off my arse and read it. Shadow and Bone was nothing like I expected but everything I desired when it comes to YA literature. I was emotional. I was cheerful. I was angsty. I swooned often. The world building was incredible. Leigh Bardugo really created something special with this one and based on all of your insistence that it only gets better from here on out, I am so beyond hyped to give the rest of the series a go.

There's something about the world in Shadow and Bone that is so compelling and dark; woven tightly in fantastical elements and intrigue. It lays somewhere between fantasy genres and keeps its pace up wonderfully. I genuinely had such a fun time reading this book that one minute, it was 9AM and the next it was early afternoon. I didn't move at all. See, Bardugo has a prose that is dark and mysterious and at its core, what fantasy needs to be to keep things fresh. Something about it blends entertainment into fantasy, which blends fantasy into romance, and romance into something obtainable. Even in all its magic, you can't help but to feel as though it's bordering on real life and fiction. I can't explain it other than that, but there was something striking about it--it makes you root for the characters even against your better judgment.

Something I noticed straight away was how intricate the settings and plots are in this. Not only are the relationships a tangle of various things, so is the setting and the world-building and every last detail. You pick up Shadow and Bone with no real idea what you are in for. And you come out of it feeling something else entirely, which makes the experience of reading it so deeply satisfying. I know it has a lot of familiar elements and archetypes to it, but the general mythology and history of what makes their world their own is something I can't say I've read about in the past.

So let's cut to the chase--characters! Oh, I loved them so! At least, the ones that I'm going to call the core three because secondary characters sort of took the back burner in my opinion. We'll start with the obvious choice--Alina Starkov. As far as characters with a substantial amount of hype, she is one that I can definitely get behind.

She combines various archetypes that are familiar in the genre but there's something about her that sticks out not only more prominently but makes her easier to relate to than others. I really appreciate how fleshed out she is--how far she comes from first glance to the last chapter of this first installment. I'm eager to see her as she develops more. Alina is one of those characters that is the perfect package. Humorous, relatable, gifted, intelligent and thoroughly fascinating. I can't wait to see her grow further and for us to get more of a backstory on her.

Short answer: she is easy to love.

(Give me more female friendships for her, thanks. I love her scenes with Genya.)

Then there's Mal. Malyen Oretsev is Alina's childhood best-friend with whom she harbors feelings for. From what I've gathered from the fandom, not many people are fond of Mal and I'm not really sure why as of yet. I thought he and Alina were sweet. He is very much so a typical young man and while the archetype of best-friends becoming love interests seems to be lackluster for many readers, I can't imagine why there is so much hostility towards him. Indifference? Sure--that I can understand. I personally like Mal and his scenes with Alina are that cross between angsty and sweet. I am not saying my feelings won't change in the future--but he is definitely a character that I am rooting for at this point in time and am excited to learn more about him.

Last... but certainly not least: The Darkling. I have to say, I appreciate his character for what it is but at the same time I don't really *get* the hype and how beloved he seems to be in the fandom. I guess this is a case of different strokes for different folks or whatever. While I think he is a fantastic villain that can go either way and is definitely morally gray verging on flat-out-bad (I mean, hello?) I just do not understand the love he gets from readers nor do I particularly want him to be with Alina.

I enjoyed their scenes together at first but there's a line that has already been crossed when it comes to their connection that I just can't see me wanting them to go for round two or be endgame at some point in future installments. Don't spoil me, guys! I'm starting the second book tomorrow and am excited but very, very nervous to see what becomes of him next.

Overall, I love how dark and complex Shadow and Bone was. The ending was that perfect capture of us readers--you want nothing more than to know what comes next for Alina, Mal and Darkling. I'm so excited to see what they get up to next and can already feel the anxiety, anticipation and fire that is bound to come. Bardugo does wonderfully at reviving a tired genre and reminds us just what is fantastic about reading fantasy. I can already tell this is on the fast-track to becoming one of my favourite trilogies and I'm so ready for the next book.

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