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Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Shadow and Bone

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Page Count: 358 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Genre: young adult, fantasy, first in a series
Copy for review obtained via the public library

Cover Summary:
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

I put this one on hold at the library after reading so many positive reviews from other book bloggers. I confess I didn't get quite what I had hoped for, but reading the book was a decent enough way to pass the time.

The use of a fantasy-based reimagined Russia as the setting is what first attracted me to this book, but beyond that there isn't anything here, at first, that hasn't been done before. We have the young person of mysterious origins who somehow has not noticed her tremendous powers until now, we have the endless adolescent musings on how literally everyone on the planet is prettier than her, and we have the magical boarding school. There were about fifty pages where I thought we were veering dangerously close to Harry Potter Knockoff Land.

This isn't to say that the book was bad, not by a long stretch. The establishing chapters were where most of the been-there, done-that took place, and once the rules of engagement were established the unique facets of this story started to shine through. The Darkling, who intially comes on the scene as the savior of all people and a man who can do no wrong, and his true motivations are a shocker. The political underpinnings and the implications of Alina's power and what it means for her people are going to take time to explore- I'm glad there are two more books so those stories can be done justice.

I also think Alina grew up very quickly in many ways over the course of the story- her biggest strength as a character was her own self-awareness (notwithstanding the Tremendous Powers thing) and she understood very quickly that all was not as it seemed at the Grisha palace. Her willingness to believe what she sees with her own eyes kept the narrative moving and showed that she's a quick study and can adapt to any situation. I think those characteristics will come in handy in the future stories.

Was this the be all end all of fantasy novels? No, but I was sufficiently engaged to want to know what happens next.

Overall Rating:

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