I sometimes feel that stumbling upon multiple great books in a row is a little bit like winning a raffle draw – you always hope for it, but never quite expect to win.
Shadow and Boneby Leigh Bardugo was intriguing, magical, serious, and enthralling. I’m so happy that it’s part of a series!
Alina and Mal are both orphans, who grow up together on a Duke’s estate. Once grown, they join the army and as part of their tour must cross the Shadow Fold. The Shadow fold is a rift that crosses the country of Ravka, where they live. It is a huge band of complete darkness, inhabited by terrible monsters who feast on human flesh. There, Alina reveals a unique magical power, marking her as one of the magical elite (Grisha), which may be the key to saving Ravka from the Shadow Fold. The Darkling, the ruler of the Grisha, quickly sweeps Alina off to be educated and trained. Ripped from her former life, Alina must learn how to unlock her power and decide her feelings for the handsome and beguiling Darkling. Whom should she trust? And, more importantly, will she ever see Mal again?
Alina is a great character, who shows flaws and also growth during the book. She starts as a weak girl who lacks self-confidence and slowly transforms into a strong female character. She’s realistic and flawed, and you sympathize with her desire to belong, to be wanted and loved and to fit in.
The Darkling is a mysterious, handsome, and powerful figure. As the realms most powerful Grisha, the Darkling provides a sharp contrast to cocky, common Mal.
The Grisha, magicians who specialize in one of three areas, are a stratified and unexpectedly commonplace bunch (in the sense that they, like regular people, suffer from snobs and social divisions). I loved how they were viewed in different lights as the book progressed, and as Alina went from the outside to the inside of their circle.
My only criticism: the writing style was a bit simplistic, and the story was carried more by the plot, characters, and underlying themes than by the descriptions and language used.
This was definitely a gripping read, and if you’re in the mood for a young-adult fantasy book that explores power (and the struggles that inevitably arise from power) and a sprinkle of romance, this would be a great pick.