Monday, June 18, 2012

Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Release date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 368
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Ebook available from: Barnes & Noble | 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.
You'd think I'd learn my lesson with hype. Despite my previous experiences of eating my words, I still resist. Shadow & Bone was yet another example of why I should get over myself. I'd heard a whole lot about this book and how "OHMYGODSOAMAZING. MUSTHAVESEQUEL. OHTHEDARKLING. OHMAL." it was, so I thought, superiorly, that I wouldn't like it or that it would make me roll my eyes. HA. Shadow & Bone deserves the hype it gets. Yes, it has a large number of the YA norms (love triangle, orphan, girl who suddenly has a magical power and must save the world), but they're handled well and don't distract from the fantastic setting, character, and plot.

It's almost hard for me to get my mind straight when I begin thinking about how to review this book. I loved Alina. I love Mal. I loved Ravka. I loved the Shadow Fold and the Darkling (in their own way, you know).

Alina is just a wonderful character. She gets the fate of her country set upon her shoulders, a weight no one person could handle, but she tries. She has some breakdowns and days where she wants to run away, but she takes it one day at a time. I also think her relationship with Mal is just perfect. They've grown up together, so there is an established rapport, but Alina has realized her feelings for him are not just platonic, so there's also an awkward element. Bardugo just seems to nail this. It doesn't hurt that Mal is utterly engaging and a joy to read about. And rather irresistible... But that's another story.

I've loved Russian history for just about forever, so a book set basically in an alternate imperial Russia is like candy to me. I appreciated that while the words weren't all explicitly Russian, they had the flavor, but they also made sense and had a recognizable feel to them. I read the egalley of the book so I didn't have the map provided in the physical copy (which is just crazy beautiful!), but I felt like the geography made sense. I just want to live there!! (Or maybe not quite yet... After the end of the series, maybe??)

The Darkling was easily the most fascinating character. For a long time you can't figure out his motives and it drives you crazy and all you want to know is if he's bad or not. BUT, even when you find out you're surprised, even if you're like me and totally knew the whole time but didn't want to believe it. (Can't you tell I'm ranting here a little bit??) The sad thing is, good or bad, he's irresistible in his dark, dark way.

I couldn't put Shadow & Bone down and I couldn't get it out of my mind. I cannot wait for Siege & Storm. I don't think another book has captured me this badly in quite a while, and I love it. I cannot recommend Shadow & Bone enough.

Risk a paper cut? Are you actually still reading?? After that rant up there?? And you need to know my final thoughts?? Shadow & Bone has eclipsed all other books I've read so far this year, and is likely to eclipse many more.

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