Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I judge books by their cover. I know, I know, I shouldn’t — but it’s the harsh truth that I’m attracted to pretty and shiny things, hence why I never picked up Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo until I heard how amazing it was. I don’t mean to start on a negative note, but I HATE the cover. On one hand, it’s one of the few books with a cover that echoes the story but on the other, it doesn’t attract the reader. It certainly didn’t do it for me.

This book is pretty darn awesome. I wouldn’t put it up there with Divergent, Delirium or Hunger Games but it deserves some recognition.

Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they’re sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.

When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling’s favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina uncovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her . . . and only she can save the future.

The world in Shadow and Bone reminds me of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It had a historic setting — traveling by horseback,  pretty gowns and dashing nobles within the court —with a modern dialogue — not sure because I wasn’t there, but I don’t think people talked and joked back then like we do today.  

I loved Bardugo’s concept of small sciences and the mystery of the Darkling. I LOVED the names of her characters and places. I’m pretty sure I cannot pronounce over half of them but they’re unique and have a pretty composition, like Etherealki. How imaginative one must be to create an entire world, name it all, and then throw in something as mind-boggling as the Fold into the mix. This world was dark and mystical surrounded by barbaric and sometimes fanciful settings.

I loved Alina and I totally understood why she was in love with Mal. However, my biggest issue with the book was it took Mal WAY too long to recognize his feelings for Alina. It frustrated me that she just accepted his blindness and didn’t question him when he saw the light.  However, Mal does a lot to save/help Alina along the way. The drama between them and their unspoken feelings adds a juicy tension within the story that I thoroughly enjoyed, especially with the Darkling thrown into the mix.

This story had a strong, likable heroine and a mini love triangle. It was exciting and unique and Bardugo’s writing sucks the reader in almost immediately. She describes her world so beautifully and the story is well-paced. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Young Adult books with a bit of magic and dark intrigue.

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