Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone is the first of three books in the Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo. Set in a fictional world heavily influenced by Russian culture (Leigh Bardugo dubbed her genre “Tsarpunk”, squee!), the story follows Alina, an orphan and mapmaker for the First Army, who is discovered to be a Sun Summoner: a rare type of Grisha (magic user) who has the power to destroy the Shadow Fold, a dark “sea” filled with horrible monsters which splits the nation of Ravka in two. Alina is taken by The Darkling, the most powerful of the Grisha, and brought to the capital city where she is to train in her abilities. But the Darkling and his motives are not what they seem, and Alina must struggle to find her true destiny.

This novel drew me in with its gorgeous cover art, Russian influences, and its great hook of a beginning. The pacing throughout the rest of the novel, however, seemed to ebb and flow and had a sort of “hurry up and wait” feel to it. I also struggled a bit with the main character and narrator, Alina, who had some immature and trope-y behaviors when it came to her feelings for her best friend, Mal, and toward other female characters. This did improve through the story, though, as Alina came to accept and believe in herself and her powers. My only other gripe is just a bias of mine: I’m not a huge fan of first-person narration (The Hate U Give is a notable exception). I crave more development of some other characters, and would especially love more back story on The Darkling, the teacher Baghra, and other characters. Perhaps I’ll get that in the next book!

In spite of these few gripes, I can’t deny that I was pulled into the story and had a hard time putting the book down. I have the sequel waiting patiently on my night stand!

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