A few months ago I finally got around to reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and I’m very conflicted about how I feel about it. On the positive side I really did like the story and I got through the first two thirds in a day or two, but then I just sat on it and I didn’t end up loving it by the end. The story itself was very compelling, and I loved it, but I felt like many of the characters fell sort of flat and I didn’t really end up feeling like many of them grew over time. I am still going to continue with the series for two reasons. 1) I have the first book 2) I’m hoping the characters grow and become more 3D in the second book.
Shadow and Bone is set in the Grisha universe, where the elite of the population have abilities to manipulate, create, or change things around them. Shadow and Bone is mainly about an orphan named Alina who lives in a country named Ravka and worked as a map maker for the military. Her best friend, Mal, knew her since she arrived at the orphanage and followed Alina as they both continue their paths in the military. That is, until the day they are sent on a mission to attempt to cross the fold, a great darkness that has taken part of the country hostage. While in the fold Alina releases a great power that fends off not only the darkness of the fold, but the monsters that live inside it. The problem? She didn’t know it was there, she doesn’t know how to control it, and she’s taken from her friend to be taken to the small palace and serve the Darkling. That’s where this story begins. During the book we follow Alina as she spends her time at the small palace developing her power, growing stronger, and falling in love.
Overall this book got a four out of five stars because I love the universe and the story was entertaining. I didn’t love the characters as much as I hoped to, but they have a lot of growing to do and I think in the next book is when that I will really happen because they are left to a much more difficult situation than what they’ve been used to. I also hope to watch as their relationship grows a little more.
Warning: stop here if you haven’t read the book. I recommend it if you’re looking for a new fantasy series, and I really do hope that you read it, but if you don’t want spoilers stop here. If you’re read it, keep going.
First I want to talk about the magic system. I like it because it’s simple and easy to understand, but if you want to it can be kind of complicated. Let’s start off simple. Grisha are able to manipulate matter on its basic levels. I’m calling this the magic system, because to me their ability to do this is a form of magic. From there you can get into different classes and abilities and all sorts of other things, but I’m only going to go one level deeper. The first class is the Corporalki, these Grisha are able to manipulate matter pertaining to the human body. This makes them able to heal people or hurt people depending on their power. The next group is the Materialki, who are able to control matter that deals with materials. Their powers allow them to manipulate things such as metals, textiles, or gases. The last groups are Etherealki, and they are able to manipulate matter that has to deal with elements. From these three groups you have a lot of different groups and powers, which can make everything a lot more difficult if you want it to be. This magic system makes sense for me, and I love it. The one thing that I don’t get is why is there one person that can summon the dark and one that can summon the light? I don’t get it, but it works for the story well enough.
Let’s talk about Alina for a few minutes. I do and I don’t like her. I felt like while she was at The Little Palace that she was dealing with such small problems and it seemed to remind me of a contemporary book. I don’t know how else to explain it but in comparison to everything else that she was dealing with I felt like she just wasn’t focusing on the right thing or she’s focusing on such a small thing that I found myself yelling at her in my head. What I did like was seeing her work with the overall situation that she was in and try to make it better. I think that she actually has the power to be so powerful, and she could be an amazing character, but she just hasn’t grown enough to do that and I can’t wait for her to do that. I think continuing her journey and hiding and challenging herself with Mal will be a great thing and I can’t wait to see what happens.
Mal is such a 2D character, although the letter at the end really made him more 3D, and I just din’t really care about him honestly. I thought that he was such an idiot when he just popped up all of a sudden and was like “I love you” and what not. It seemed too convenient and easy. I was also so mad when he couldn’t kill her! This sounds so stupid, but that entire scene just sort of confused me and I’ll go into it later. I also don’t like that Alina focused so much on him for almost no reason besides she loves him. Even with that, I do’nt really know what to think of him an dI do’t like him as much as I hoped I would.
The Darkling… let’s talk about The Darkling. He was such an easy prince character to fall in love with, and I liked it, but then the change to him being evil threw me trough such a loop and I didn’t want to believe it. (Let’s be honest I don’t believe it and I just want it all to be a huge misunderstanding.) On the other hand he makes such a good villain… even though I really want him to end up being a good guy so that I’m able to love him and hope for the relationship between The Darkling and Alina to be a thing and not have the world be destoryed. Hopeful thinking, but ya know what that’s what I’m up to.
Things I love
- I love the setting because I could so easily place myself in that place and I loved it. Where I live it was snowing while I read this book and having that just made me fall in love and made me feel like it was a great time to read the book with a cup of hot chocolate in my hand.
- I loved the stag. I love the whole thing with the stag and I had to stop after he died because I just couldn’t continue for a few minutes.
- I like Genya Safin as a character, and as a normal personality from our world that is in this world so that it grounds you pretty well because it’s something familiar. She just wants to belong and be part of something and that’s such a relate-able problem and goal that I can’t help but love her regardless of her mistakes.
Things I hate
- Mal not being able to kill Alina. I’m sorry if the entire world is on the line and she gave you the instruction you just have to close your eyes and do it for this situation. It’s a cute scene, but it’s so predictable and I knew that he wasn’t going to do it right after Alina brought it up.
- Alina just blindly believing Baghra without any proof. If Alina was so in love with The Darkling I felt like she shouldn’t just blindly believe her like she did.
- I don’t really like Alina’s goal to protect Mal and stay with him, but I just don’t really understand it because I’ve never been in that situation where I felt like I needed hang onto something that badly that I would just ignore something in my gut.
I just felt like there were a few plot holes, but overall I did like the book and I hope to continue reading it in the near future. I give this book four out of five stars and strongly hope that the next one fixes some of these issues so I’m able to give it five out of five stars.
Let me know in the comments what you thought of the book, or if you have any recommendations for books like this one.
See you soon,