Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Monsters in the Dark: SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

YA Fantasy
368 pages, hardcover
Available June 5, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

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.

Positive: The world of Alina Starkov. Dosed with a very strong early-20th-century-Russia flavor, this world surrounds the reader in richness and flavor. The swath of darkness--the Shadow Fold--that slices through the country, the people who inhabit Rivka, and the magic that permeates the land all blend to create a world that I enjoyed visiting (though I wouldn't want to live there).

Positive: The two guys, Mal and The Darkling. First off, let me put it out there that this is not a love triangle. I can't get into too much detail about it without giving away key plot points but trust me, it's no triangle (thank cheesus). Mal--an orphan fostered with Alina, Alina's very best friend in the whole world, and hot player extraordinaire (at least in his mind), Mal is a flawed character with a big heart. He's young, impulsive, and will do anything for his friends. The Darkling, on the other hand, is the embodiment of power and prestige, a man who knows what he wants and how to get it. He entrances Alina, gifting her with his knowledge and presence, making her feel special and needed--things she's never known.

Positive: The pacing. With fantasy, I need a solid combination of description, characterization, and a forward-moving plot to keep me firmly entrenched in the story. SHADOW AND BONE does just this, keeping the pace at a firm canter up until the breakneck gallop to the end.

Wish: That The Darkling had a name. Seriously, y'all. I really liked his character but I also kept expecting him to share his name with Alina (like a secret, to draw her farther into his confidence). As far as I could tell, names don't hold power in this world so why the hell doesn't this guy have a name? Did his mother not love him? Maybe all will be revealed in later books.

Overall: SHADOW AND BONE is a fantastic fantasy, something that is sorely lacking in the young adult world. More. I want more, I say! *bangs utensils on table, ready for the literary feast*

Available on Amazon | IndieBound


  1. I don't think this one is for me but it is on a LOT of people's want list. I will say that the cover is haunting!

  2. I'm already getting this book, but your review makes me want to get it FASTER! Like, now!

  3. Reading this one now, and even though I'm only about 100 pages in, I had to force myself to put it down and go to bed last night!

  4. Now I'm very curious about the name!!
    The book sounds really cool too, of course!
    Lovely review.

  5. I actually really did like both guys until the Darkling...well that would be a spoiler. I did prefer Mal but I tend to like the "good guy" and I was kind of picturing him as Peeta who I like a lot so that influenced me positively. I would not be surprised if the Darkling's name is revealed in a later book and proves to be an important plot point for Alina to defeat him.

  6. I think I'm going to have to read this one very, very soon! I can't wait to read about the world this takes place in! It sounds so amazing. Plus, Darkling sounds very interesting! Awesome review!

  7. Yes! So glad you loved it too! Loved the twist that somehow took me by surprise.

  8. "Shadow and Bone" started out a little dryly. It felt like many other traditional fantasies I'd read. Then there came heart-pounding action and the mysterious Grisha. Unfortunately, the Grisha were a little bit too mysterious - it is never clearly explained what all the different classes and types of Grisha do and it would have been helpful to have a reference at the front or back of the book. But, overall, the Grishas' world is a deceivingly glamorous one full of secrets and located right next to the court of a weak king. The scenes about Grisha training are not too technical or brief - you feel Alina's struggles and triumphs. There's a feeling of excitement and tension throughout the book which occasionally becomes full-blown suspense and terror - those are the best parts. The characters never seemed completely real out, although they were all three-dimensional and interesting. Hopefully, we'll get to know them better in the next two books. "Shadow and Bone" is a really good book, especially for fantasy buffs, and the start of a trilogy which could become a masterpiece.