REVIEW: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

 Leigh Bardugo

PUBLISHER: Henry Holt & Company

DATE PUBLISHED: June 5, 2012

RATING: 4 out 5

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads): Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.



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..

Writing Style

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. 

From Jessica Zheng’s Pinterest


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  1. I loved this book because of the world building and the brilliant Antagonist–I love me some complex villains and I can definitely see Red Queen fans falling in love with this (admittedly Shadow and Bone has WAY more romance than Red Queen).

    Great review Trisha. I love how long and detailed it is since I write long reviews myself. And lol the only thing Russian about this book are the names (in some cases not even then) and the onion shaped domes!


    • YOUR COMMENT IS ON POINT. Shadow and Bone really does have more romance than Red Queen and hmm at some points, I liked Red Queen more than Shadow and Bone (not the entire Grisha trilogy though).

      Thank you, Tanaz! I sometimes find writing long reviews bothersome since others might find it a struggle to read so your comment really uplifts my spirit. And haha to that last comment. That’s what I thought too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely loved the world building too! Though it was confusing at first xD and that lake scene completely caught me off guard as well xD glad you enjoyed the first book! Can’t wait to see what you think of the others ^^


    • The world building really got me! Bardugo invested so much in it and she has to know it paid off really well! Ahh I finished the entire series (I just need to find time to post the latter’s review). I need to know who you’re shipping here before I give my comment. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope so! It’s one of the few worlds that I can think about and picture in my mind so vividly. Ahhh that’s a hard one, I really wanted the Darkling and Alina to end up together lol, but then Nikolai shows up and just ❤ Personally, I'd want to keep the Darkling for myself haha. Nikolai and Alina could have been a really cute couple; I wanted her to be Queen! Who do you ship?


    • Wow really?! I haven’t read SOC yet but this is my first time to hear such feedback. Well, most fantasies are really hard to get at first. I hope you’ll find the second read more appealing. And thank you for this wonderful comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I bought the ebook but I’m finally convinced to read it after reading your review! Great review Trisha! 🙂


    • Believe me, it’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time as well! I didn’t read it not until I buddy read it (with Twitter peeps) last year. I hope you’ll love it once you get to read it, Sarah, and thank you so much for the compliment 🙂


  4. I completely agree with you 110% Trisha! This was such a well-written and action-packed book, and I’m so glad you liked it as much as I did. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤


    • Ahhh thanks for the extra 10% LOL. Have you read Six of Crows? Many say it’s better than Grish trilogy and since this for me is already good, I can’t wait to read what’s better! Thank you for that comment, Zoe! 😀


  5. I need to revisit this series. I liked the first book OK but didn’t continue on – but now that I have read the magnificent Six of Crows I want more of this world. Fantastic review, hun ❤


    • Hmmm TBH, this is one of the series I probably wouldn’t reread. Haha! I did enjoy but maybe I’ll reread it after a long long time. Ahh yes, I heard Six of Crows was the bomb! I haven’t read it yet but I already downloaded the SOC wallpaper you made. LOL.


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