SHADOW AND BONE
(The Grisha Trilogy #1)Leigh Bardugo
Paranormal Young Adult/Fantasy
Henry Holt and Co.
Available June 5th
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (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.
MY THOUGHTSShadow and Bone is an intriguing combination of dark fairy tale and classic adventure story, charming us with a little magic and a touch of romance while subtly appealing to the side of us that relishes a sense of foreboding, proving to us just how much of a glutton for punishment we really are that the grim side of things would attract us so strongly. While we're gleefully distracted by the enchanting world of the Grisha and the discovery of Alina’s latent and entirely unique gift, Ms. Bardugo skillfully channels her Darkling character – weaving dark tendrils of doubt in and through the shiny newness of Alina’s world and planting seeds that grow with each page we read until we finally start to see what all the glitter and the wealth are masking. Light and dark both play off one another as well as face off against each other in this tale, combining to create beauty, safety, and protection just as easily as they cause pain, death, and destruction, and we read on with breath held to see just what degree of light and dark we’ll see next.
A loner her whole life, Alina is a young woman we can easily picture ourselves befriending were she to be someone we met in our everyday lives, her sense of alienation from all those around her, even her best friend Mal, radiating in waves strong enough to knock us over as she travels from one location and one phase of her life to the next no closer to finding a true home or family than she was previously. Her sense of solitariness only serves to make our connection to her feel all the more intimate–as though we alone know all her secrets and would gladly guard them against anyone we deem unworthy of her–and we devour the pages rooting for her to find someone or someplace to call her own. She’s got a smart mouth, an unrelenting determination, and an innate vulnerability; qualities that blend together to create a woman who doesn’t despair of her lot in life, and instead continually searches for something better for herself no matter how often it remains just beyond her reach.
It’s Alina’s palpable loneliness that ratchets up the intensity of what might otherwise be a more understated romantic thread, her unrequited love for Mal creating a hole in us from the first chapter, with each subsequent page acting as an emotional leech draining us until our emptiness echoes Alina’s own. Once we’ve quickly reached bottom Mal exits the picture and the Darkling enters it, his complex nature piquing our interest as surely as it does Alina’s, and slowly but surely his small attentions—enhanced by the physical and political power he wields—begin to fill both of us one drop at a time, and our emotionally dehydrated bodies absorb each taste with an increasing voraciousness until we can barely contain our need to be in the Darkling’s presence. Only when we’re starting to feel blissfully full do things shift yet again, emotions flung chaotically in a million different directions as the tentative comfort Alina’s found as a Grisha comes tumbling down around her.
Shadow and Bone is an extraordinary beginning to the Grisha Trilogy, one brimming with action, magic, and matters of the heart to ensure every part of us is fully engaged from opening words to concluding sentiments.