NOTE: SPOILERS ARE IN WHITE FONT. HIGHLIGHT TO REVEAL.
Well, well. I have to admit, the chief cause for (finally) picking up this book is the hype. I mean, if practically majority of the YA world, rejoices upon the birth of the Grisha world, the basis thereof has got to be reliable, even in the slightest hint, yeah? Let’s see..
Shadow and Bone is my first glimpse of Leigh Bardugo’s writing style. To get into it isn’t hugely a struggle. I like how descriptive she was on everything even to the amount of sheen the crystals on the chandelier emitted.
But nonetheless, I wouldn’t say her writing is an absolute walk in the park. Like other fantasy novels, a reader would have to endure the initial difficulties of getting immersed completely as one is bombarded with strange, unfamiliar words. I had to flip a few pages back when I’m like, remind me what a kefta is. But well, eventually, one would get used to it.
The main plot chiefly exploits the battle between Grishas. The Darkling/ The Black Heretic created the Shadow Fold, a general slip on his attempt to overthrow Ravkan royals and pursue Grisha justice. In order to correct this, he needed light to drive away the volcras residing there. Alina Starkov was the walking resolution. Made to believe she’s the Ravkan savior, Alina went along with the Darkling’s plans until discovery that her powers will just be capitalized on.
If this is compared to how other YA fantasy novels panned out, it’s easy to conclude the polarities aren’t that wide. An average lass lived a humdrum life until she found out she wasn’t. A political injustice arouse in a fantasy universe and no one else can solve it except her. And of course, it’s not a YA fantasy without the love triangle, yes? But for some reasons, this for me is a good kind of cliche. The plot was gripping. There’s extreme dynamics on the whole.
Fantasy is central to Shadow and Bone’s theme. The worldbuilding is one of a kind. As aforementioned, Bardugo invested lavishly on explaining how this or that looked, creating a powerful context of the story. The setting was extremely intricate but thank heavens for maps (see book’s first page). Bardugo didn’t just put them there for beautification causes. The geographical key points there were utilized heavily. I don’t know about you but I relied hugely on that map.
If I didn’t read from other book reviews, there’s no way for me to tell this sat on a Russian culture. My knowledge on that country is blatantly limited and hence, I can’t attest for accuracy. But nonetheless, I like that the choice of culture is outside the usual. I have nothing against America but novels can be explored more than just being America-centric.
Another predominant theme on this novel is romance. I’m emphasizing it just in case you missed it. Satire intended. This is the prime reason I’m greedy of giving it a five-star rating. Romance attempted not simply to eclipse the central theme but more likely to devour everything. For a second, I thought I was reading a Rainbow Rowell/ Stephanie Perkins novel, all gooey and mushy. Not that I’m saying fantasy novels aren’t rightful thereof, but hoodwinking their audiences is as good as a crime.
Here, we are introduced to the Grisha world, beings with supernatural, beyond-human-comprehension abilities. They’re considered fear-mongering witches ought to be eliminated. One word: MAGNIFICENT.
Alina Starkov is the Celaena Sardothien of the Grisha trilogy. Let me convince you. Her anything-but-extraordinary features lured all men to falling into her. In an attempt to make her worthy to stand side by side with other contemporary strong female characters, Alina swears and doesn’t yield in to every whims. Very Celaena, yeah? But these attributes don’t make her stand out. She’s “okay” but “just okay”. There’s not enough to make her character phenomenal. Mal Oretsev is Alina’s buddy since childhood. There’s not much character development on his personality. Apart from being Alina’s figure of infatuation, his growth wasn’t given much regard (This is why I’m just squeezing him on Alina’s paragraph on this review).
The Darkling, on the other hand, is worthy of the title ambiguous. I’m still indecisive on which side of spectrum he’s at. I like that his character shaping had that effect on readers like me. His eventual love fascination with Alina wasn’t surprising. Love triangles gave me that much immunity. That kiss by the lake however came out of the blue and believe me, it wasn’t beautiful. I was on the brim of forgiving this book for conforming to romance eclipsing anything else until this.
For the record, I’m not shipping anyone on this.
Should you pick up this book? With a setting comparable to King’s Landing of A Song of Ice and Fire, worldbuilding akin to Red Queen, plot maybe homologous to The Mortal Instruments villain-wise, you judge.