Grisha magic, mystery in the royal court and love?

 

SYNOPSIS:

The once-powerful nation of Ravka is surrounded by enemies and has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a pretty much impenetrable darkness filled with monsters whose diet basis are human meat (yummy). The nation’s fate may reside on the shoulders of one young refugee.

Alina Starkov is the underdog. In literally, everything and everywhere. But, when her regiment gets attacked on the Fold and her best friend is almost killed, Alina reveals a power she didn’t even know she had, just to save her friend’s life… Officials realise her power could be the key to winning the war and so, Alina gets whisked away from everything she knows, and taken to the royal court to be trained as a Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious figure of the Darkling.

But, Selena Gomez sang it first: everything is not what it seems. There is darkness looming in the shadows and the entire kingdom depends on a power that Alina doesn’t even trust yet.

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW:

 

Story:

While this is the first installment to the Grisha Trilogy and one might think it could easily be slow-paced since it’s working towards a grander arch than stand-alone stories do, this was a very exciting read. We follow Alina Starkov as her dormant power seems to finally come alive when she needs to save her friend from a sure death in the Fold. However, despite the initial turbulences, the book calms down quite quickly and instead focuses on Alina’s inner struggles for a while. This is not an action-packed novel, but it is a great adventure book. Nothing seems rushed. If anything, at times, we wished it picked up quicker. But the overall flow of the storyline is really good.

 

Characters: 

Initially, I must admit many of the characters felt very archetypical. We experience, nonetheless, very natural and pleasing character developments for most of them as the story unfolds. My favourite, for this first book, were definitely Alina and Genya. They both stray away from our initial stereotypical first impression of them and I really enjoyed their sense of humour and brutal honesty. There are, nevertheless, certain characters I would’ve loved getting to know a little better, such as Baghra, the Darkling and Mal. But, «Shadow and Bone» is just the beginning of the Grisha trilogy after all. So, we can hope to truly get to know their deeper layers in the next installments of the trilogy.

 

World-building

In «Shadow and Bone«, we do only get a brief introduction the (russian-inspired) world of the Grisha and the novel is very much based around Alina’s dormant power coming to life/coming-of-age story, therefore: the author didn’t put loads of effort into detailed description of the world the story unfolds in itself. Rather, we are told about the war with other countries and experience the inner workings of the political system of Ravka through Alina’s experiences in court and the comments made about it around her. I hope we can explore much more of this world in the remaining books.

 

Style:

I found Leigh Bardugo‘s writing both infinitely elegant as well as incredibly witty. I, especially, enjoyed how Bardugo narrated the story solely through such a naturally humouristic Alina. It felt effortlessly natural that her main character has such an entertaining way of narrating her life-story.

The dialogues between certain characters did sometimes feel slightly prototypical, but I hope as their relationships deepen, so will their communication skills with each other.

 

Theme:

Honestly, in terms of themes, there isn’t any extremely original themes being explored here aside from: good versus evil because this is a quintessential fantasy novel and has, most likely, been built following Joseph Campbell’s monomyth («The Hero’s Journey») theory. But, the elements within it such as the character’s sense of humour, the different concepts within Grisha magic and the russian-inspired setting feel like fresh gush of winds within the genre.

 

YOU MIGHT ENJOY «SHADOW AND BONE» IF YOU LIKE:

-Films: «The Illusionist» (2006) and the «Harry Potter» (2001–2011) saga -more so the films than the books.

-Books: «The Girl of Ink and Stars» by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and «The Golden Compass» by Philip Pullman.

 

Have you read «Shadow and Bone»? Who was your favourite character in this first novel?

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