I know I am really late to this party, but recently I decided to finally pick up Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Let me just state that I regret waiting so long! There are a few books I’ve read this past year that stand out as exceptional, and this one moved to the front of the pack
What’s it about? Here’s the description from Amazon:
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.
This book blew. me. away. I was heading to bed and decided to download the free chapter sampler to read before falling asleep, with the intention of picking the book up the following day. Well, that didn’t happen. As soon as those five chapters were up I got out of bed, bought the e-book, and read until 4:30 am. I fell asleep with twenty pages left, which I promptly devoured first thing in the morning before I even got out of bed for breakfast. Yeah, it’s that good.
Why is it that good? Shadow and Bone has all the pieces of the best kind of YA. There is tension from the start to the end. The opening scene where we’re getting to know the main characters, up until Alina’s hidden power is revealed, is really well paced, and there is some serious tension when they head into the Fold. That doesn’t let up. It reduces to a simmer, but there’s this wonderful driving force propelling the reader forward. I had to know what happened next. The main plot, combined with the richness of the world and the interplay between the main characters blended seamlessly, making for some excellent story-telling.
I also love what the author does with the world. It’s inspired from Czarist Russia, and there is a light feel of the culture without it being overbearing. Also, Leigh really handles the different levels of magic well, bringing it to a visual place with differently colored robes. One of the reasons I didn’t want to read it for a while was I wasn’t feeling the Russian thing, but it wasn’t too much at all, and I thought its influence brought a lot to the world.
And the guys. Oh, the guys. Alina’s crushing on her best friend Mal, who is quite the cutie, and then in comes the amazing Darkling, who completely captivates her. So much YA is centered around the love triangle, and so many writers bore me with the way they handle these relationships. So often it feels like I’m reading the same thing over and over again, just different book, different name, but same dark brooding hotness. Leigh manages to nail it with these relationships, and there were a few different scenes where I yelled at the book, declaring this so hot I couldn’t even stand it. Not too much smut, mind you, but the delicious tension manages to make these scenes steamy.
This book quickly became a favorite and I haven’t stopped raving about it. I’m telling friends, facing it out in bookstores, I even wrote it down for my dentist after a cleaning yesterday (she’s a YA fan). So I declare to all YA fans who love romance, adventure, and magic, Shadow and Bone is a must-read.