Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy (book #1)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback (406 pages)
Publisher: Square Fish (May 2013; originally June 2012)
My Goodreads rating: 3 stars
Book Depository: Shadow and Bone
Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two.
Hi there, strangers! Where has the week gone? Time flies when you lounge around the house reading books and doing absolutely nothing else 😀
I know Shadow and Bone isn’t a recent book by any means, but I’ve just gotten around to reading it now. The reason for this, despite deciding a while ago that I wouldn’t give this trilogy a try, is that I have Six of Crows sitting on my bookshelf right now. I wanted to read it and skip the first trilogy, satisfied that I’d be able to get into it without needing to read these. Especially because I’ve noticed that the reviews for the Grisha Trilogy aren’t as good as those for Six of Crows and its sequel. But, because I’ve had free time on my hands, I decided to give these books a try just for the hell of it. With that backstory over with, let’s discuss what I thought:
Firstly, what I liked:
I really liked the setting. I know that it is supposed to be inspired by Russian culture, and slightly based off the country itself, and that really pleased me as a Russian girl myself 🙂 I appreciate it when an author takes the time to build worlds that aren’t centred in places that are really common- Laini Taylor does this too by basing her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy in Prague. It’s just nice to explore different countries and cultures.
I also liked the premise. I’m a huge fan of magic in novels and movies (stemming from my young Harry Potter days #potterforlife #noshame) and I am also a sucker for the “Chosen One” trope. I know, I know, it’s been done to death and lots of people list this as one of their ultimate pet peeves, but I simply can’t. I think this comes from a longing for adventure; ever since I was young I loved the idea of waking up one day and finding out there’s more to life than what meets the eye. When Alina, an orphan raised in the nation of Ravka, learns that she has a hidden talent that could help turn the tide in a vicious war, she must leave the life she knows and master her powers. I love this; I think it offers great potential for character growth, not just in Shadow and Bone, but in any novel.
Now, as you can tell, I only gave the book three stars. The two things I mentioned above are as much as I can think of for why I liked the book, but there are quite a few reasons I didn’t like it.
What I disliked:
The setting. I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t she just say she liked it??”
Well, I did like it. That is, until I started getting some weird vibes from the Russian-inspired story. I just want to say this: if you’re going to base a story off a culture, either embrace it fully and make it accurate, or ensure that you emphasise it is a loose interpretation. It can’t be both. Where Leigh goes wrong is that she tries hard to make it seem Russian, but there are quite a few things wrong. Some basic spelling of Russian names and words. The constant repetition of just some random Russian words that didn’t need to be in Russian in the first place. Oh, and the one pet peeve I’ve seen every Russian on Goodreads complain about: Kvas. If you’re getting drunk on Kvas, you’re either the biggest lightweight in the history of humanity or have just drunk a truck-full, Lord help you child. Also, Grisha is a nickname derivative for the name Grigori. So, it’s like Greg for Gregory. The powerful people that everyone practically worship are known as, roughly, “The Greg”. Excuse me-
I know the word “Grisha” is cool. But still, no. Just no.
Also, the word that comes to mind if I had to sum up this book is “meh.” Just one big meh. The writing, while not awful, reads awfully young. Perhaps this is because I’m an adult; maybe I would have enjoyed this more at 15. But I found it quite simplistic. Because of that, nothing really excited me. The action scenes? I didn’t feel anything. The big reveals? Nada. The ending? Nope, no huge reaction from me. Which is a pity. The book started out well, and I finished it in a day, but the whole time my emotions were like this:
The characters were also kind of strange. Usually, with a first person narrative, you get to see into a character’s head. But I felt nothing from Alina; she accounts for everything shes does throughout a day but with no indication of her feelings, except for one: she tells us again and again how plain and boring she is. I don’t really like this trend of YA protagonists telling us how utterly uninteresting they are; I’d like to know more than how everyone else is gorgeous and talented while the protag is a potato with no talent.
Finally, I’m disappointed with the Darkling’s character. He’s by far the most interesting, but for the first half of the book he didn’t feel powerful, or ruthless, or even “bad-boy” bad. I know the ending was supposed to change it up a bit, but at that point I wasn’t really interested. I hope the next two books help establish his character a bit more. If you’re going to write a villain, at least make me feel like they are an actual villain. I will read on with the trilogy, but again it’s just to act as a backdrop for Six of Crows.
That’s it for now! Sorry for the rather morose review; I knew going into this that I might not really enjoy it, but even I was surprised by the number of problems I had with it. I can’t wait to read Six of Crows, and I’ll get through these really quickly so it’s not all bad 🙂 Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about it let me know below!