Review: Shadow and Bone
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.
I'm obsessed with the Grishaverse and had to start reading this trilogy after I read the Six of Crows duology first (oops!). After finishing Shadow and Bone, I'm so glad I've read things out of order because otherwise, I'm sure I would have given up on this trilogy - and even the Grishaverse - if I had only read this book. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom were incredible and so well-developed with a beautiful and dark world filled with even more beautiful and dark characters. I guess it says something to the author's development as a writer and storyteller as well - she seems to have just gotten better with each story.
I was sure I was going to love Shadow and Bone. To be fair, I did like it, but really only because of the world it was set in and because of the Darkling. He was the most interesting, complex and multi-layered character. I loved every bit of time we had with him and I wish we had more!
To my surprise, unlike Six of Crows (sorry for the million comparisons but that's the standard I'm holding the Grishaverse to), Shadow and Bone was told in first person POV and immediately I thought, "oh no". I'm an incredibly picky reader and if I don't like, or even have some minor complaints about the narrator, I immediately lose that magic of getting entirely lost in a story. I gave Alina a chance and hoped she would have more character development, especially since this is a 3-book series in which she's supposed to become the almighty savior - so I chose not to judge too harshly. She was okay, kind of a disappointment but I’m hoping to like her more in the next one. Alina and Mal were even more disappointing, cringe and eye-roll worthy. Separately, they're a little bit more compelling as characters but together, they're boring and dry and I just can't even come up with any spark of emotion where their relationship is concerned. Alina and the Darkling though, that's an entirely different story. I liked the strength and power she had found within herself when she was with him. Clearly, I have a soft spot for antiheroes.
Again, I'm compelled to read on because I love the world-building in the Grishaverse and am curious to see how the writing develops in the next two books.
A side note/minor complaint I have is with the Russian in this book. Some of the words don't translate correctly and some of the references made me scratch my head in confusion because they don't really mean what the author seemed to want them to mean within the context she set them up in. I just feel like if you're going to immerse or base your characters into an existing culture, maybe you should do more research about it first or have an actual Russian double-check your work.