“Shadow and Bone” Book Review

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Yness Martinez

“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo published in 2013

Yness Martinez, Staff Reporter

“Shadow and Bone” was published by Leigh Bardugo in 2013. The complex world she created, the ‘Grishaverse’ spans seven books, soon to be eight. With the highly anticipated release of the upcoming Netflix show adaptation, it only seemed right that I find out what all the fuss is about, starting with the first book.

Alina Starkov is a mapmaker in the army of Ravka, a country plagued by a dark land that divided their country called the Shadow Fold. On Alina’s first time crossing the Shadow Fold, she and her companions are attacked by the monsters that lie within. In an attempt to save her best friend’s life, she unknowingly releases her hidden power. Her power may be the key to destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting Ravka once more. She is sent to train with others of her kind, called Grisha, where she learns to control her power. With mysterious powers at play, and the fate of Ravka in her hands, she struggles to hold up to expectations. Alina must uncover the true motives of the people around her, and the truth she’s tried for so long to hide from herself.

Like any fantasy novel, there are usually three to six chapters of world building. Here, the author sets the stage for how they want you to imagine the characters, the surroundings, and the community it takes place in. Typically, world building is the most boring, and least captivating part of the book. Not here.

From the second page  it was easy to tell this was different from any fantasy I’ve read, starting by the culture it’s based on, being Russian. Yes, the beautiful onion domes, the names of the cities and towns, the caste-like society, all the way down to their traditional clothes. It was incredibly alluring as a reader, and an immensely fun world to step into. The world is so intricate and different from any of the usual eurocentric worlds. This is, perhaps, the main selling point of the book. 

As far as character development goes it was mediocre. Upon opening the book it was easy to spot the villain, the infamous Darkling. Upon getting to know this character he wasn’t all that bad. Maybe a little narcissistic and mysterious, but he seemed to have good intentions despite his reputation. His development surprised me the most by going in a completely different direction; in all honesty it was disappointing. 

However, the pros more than outweigh the cons. The Russian culture represented was so entrancing I spent hours looking at the inspirations Bardugo shared online. Not to mention the slim 350 pages it spans, making it a quick read in my standards. With the excitement for the upcoming film growing, it’ll be interesting to see if the world translates well to screen.