Helloo everyone! I hope you have all had a wonderful July 4th weekend filled with relaxation. I am currently in the middle of a two-week mini vacation, which means I have spent a lot of time reading in the sun, watching movies, a bit of the World Cup and Wimbledon, and watching a fair amount of Parks and Rec. (I know I’m late to the party but I am completely obsessed with it at the moment!)
Speaking of obsessions…I am excited to talk about Shadow and Bone today. Usually I like to wait a while (maybe about a year) before re-reading a book, but I am pretty sure I am going to be revisiting the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo (which Shadow and Bone is the first of) well before then. Like I might read it again after the book I’m reading now, and I only first read it a few months ago (still playing catch up here).
I first heard about the Grisha series while having lunch with a college friend, who insisted that I had to read it, and I took out Shadow and Bone from the library not too long after that. And after reading it I can say that my friend was right. I am also debating buying it so I can revisit again in the future.
Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina, a girl who grew up as an orphan with her friend Mal in Ravka, a Russian-based fantasy land where Grishas, or people with specific talents (either for the elements, healing, etc.) serve The Darkling. Ravka is also divided by the Shadow Fold, a dark abyss that splits the country in two, and takes away its sea ports and trade routes. Alina leans that she might have the power needed to help restore Ravka and destroy the Fold, but things in the capital aren’t all what they seem, and Alina finds herself swept up in the middle of it.
There are many things that I really enjoyed about Shadow and Bone. The first thing I noticed as I read the first page was Bardugo’s writing style. It is sparse and to the point, but it also seemed very poetic to me, which I really enjoyed. The world itself also was very unique in terms of fantasy stories. The court life story is well known in fantasy books, but while many of the other court stories are based on European or British culture, Ravka is a Russian based world, which set it apart from the start. Many of the names of lands or people had Slavic roots, the world itself felt vast, and the winters sounded brutal.
At first I thought that Shadow and Bone would be similar to the Graceling series, which I read a few years ago and have recently revisited, in that certain people have special powers and are set apart from society etc. But I wasn’t too far into Shadow and Bone before it was clear that Leigh Bardugo was doing her own thing and was doing it really well.
Another thing I really loved about this book was Alina and her storytelling since the story is in first person. My creative writing teacher in college always said that you had to have a really strong unique narrator to pull off the first person narration well, and Alina Starkov fits that mold without a question. She is a quiet character who doesn’t always have a lot to say, but she is also hugely sarcastic and can hold her own against the other characters, which I really enjoyed. There was something about a quiet snarky girl that I really appreciated. That kind of personality could also be challenging to pull off in writing too, but Bardugo holds the balance well to make Alina a believable and likable character.
Another thing that was interesting about Shadow and Bone, was that as a narrator Alina (and Bardugo) never really stepped back to give the reader any backstory. Instead, things are pieced together as the story moves along, which makes the action more fast paced and immediate. I found that it took me a couple of chapters to figure out the world Alina lived in at first with the different Grisha powers and all, but the fact that I didn’t know everything, or certain things, pulled me in more. I also thought it was an interesting technique as a writer which I appreciated. There were flashbacks to when Alina and Mal were younger, but the camera never really zoomed out to say here’s what you need to know about such and such. This also emphasized the plot and speed of events in the story, which was plotted and laid out very meticulously. I feel like that would be an interesting exercise – write a piece without zooming the camera out.
I also appreciated the reality of Alina’s relationships, particularly with her instructors, The Darkling, and Mal. The relationships were made very complex as Alina found out more about herself, her power, and the world that she lives in. This also flushed out the other characters in the story as well, and made The Darkling and Mal more than just the men (and sometimes love interests) in her life, which I appreciated. It made all the characters in the series more three dimensional.
Those were the main things that stuck out to me with Shadow and Boen, which I devoured over a few days, along with the other two books in the Grisha series, which I will be talking about next. I could go on but I don’t want to give things away. But you all should read Shadow and Bone, and if you have I would love to hear what you think about it. Also the movie rights for the book have been sold to the same people who did Harry Potter, so hopefully a movie for Shadow and Bone will be coming soon! With such a fast moving, action driven plot, I imagine it would make a great movie if they do it right. What are your thoughts on that? I want to know!