4 out of 5 hearts
After reading this book, I feel like such a buffoon because I have been following Bardogo on Twitter and did not connect this greatness of a book to her. I read it because a few people that I follow in Goodreads read it recently and gave it great reviews. And I am totally on that wagon!
Alina and Mal were two orphans that grew up in a Duke's compassionate home. They share no blood relation, but their unfortunate childhoods have bonded them. However, Alina sees Mal in a different way and would rather bite back her feelings than risk the chance of loosing him. They join the military - Mal is a tracker and Alina is a map-maker. Their troop is on the way to the Shadow Fold, a stretch of land that is encased in a dense, opaque blackness that hides flocks of volka. Volkas are blind, flesh-eating birds that fear light only, not even the Darkling's power can overcome them. As they struggle to cross the Fold, they are attacked by the Volkas. Just as Alina holds Mal in her arms awaiting her death, her power reveals itself and they survive.
However, after her revelation, she is unable to speak with Mal. Even though she did save his life, she remembers in great detail the look on his face when he saw her display her power once more in the presence of the Darkling. After her reveal, the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha (kind of like a witch) takes her under his wing to help Alina train and learn to control her gift. Since he works for the King and the Grishas help the military, Alina becomes his most prized possession and weapon against the Shadow Fold. Mal stays behind with the military and Alina moves to the Little Palace, where she is surrounded by Grishas and the noble. She has left her simple life behind her to absorb one of grandeur but at the cost of the person she loves the most. The Darkling vows to nurture and protect her, but can he fill the emptiness Mal left and does he have a hidden agenda?
Bardugo possess great skill as a writer and world-builder that is is hard to not enjoy this book. This is very important in Epic Fantasy books, such as this one and the likes of Lord of the Rings, because they have to create a world the reader can believe and follow. The concept of this book is very refreshing, especially when there are plenty of paranormal and dystopian novels out there.
One other thing I will point out is that this didn't read like the first book of a series. Lately, I have been reading a lot of book ones that are mostly about setting up the scene for book two. Shadow and Bone could very well read like a stand alone book, so I felt that it had a great story line of its own.
Although this is a bit more mature YA because of the violence and kvas-drinking, it was not bothersome or overwhelming. The second book Siege and Storm was released on June 4, 2013. Additionally, Shadow and Bone is coming to film!
“And there's nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be a hawk.” - Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (first published May 17th 2012)
ISBN 0805094598 (ISBN13: 9780805094596)
Edition language: English