Friday, August 10, 2012

Shadow and Bone

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.

My Rating: ****

I've been reading gushing reviews about this one for a while so I was excited to get my hands on it. I'm glad that I read a few reviews that had more tempered opinions, though, because it helped lower my expectations a bit. For me, it was really good. But not quite a five star book.

Absolute highest marks, though, for setting, atmosphere, and gorgeous writing. Plus a very imaginative magic system that I really loved. And before I forget to mention it, I really like this cover. It is so beautiful and ties in perfectly with the book.

The whole book had a wonderful epic fantasy feel and I read it quickly. I was emotionally invested in all the characters, especially Alina. She had a very human and vulnerable feel to her, imperfect and likeable - all qualities she was able to hold on to even after she became incredibly powerful. I have to complain for a second about the romance (SPOILERS): I just thought the book spent too much time building up the Darkling as being all sexy and in love with Alina, only to turn it around too quickly. It damaged the romance line with Mal, in my opinion. And I had a hard time forgiving Mal for being such a loose flirt at the beginning of the book.

My only complaint is that some of the plot lines felt too recycled and unoriginal. The boy and girl who grow up best friends but then maybe become something more... poor, neglected orphans who are more than they seem... the girl who suddenly comes into unexpected powers and is the most powerful of her kind with very little work... the villain who pretends not to be a villain when we all know he really is the villain who is eventually undone because he doesn't understand deeply magical concepts like mercy and love.... oh hello Voldemort. Anyway, I just wanted it all to feel original and new and it didn't quite happen.

But I loved every minute I spent reading it. And I am definitely looking forward to the sequel. I can't wait to see what fate (or Leigh Bardugo) has in store for Alina and Mal and Genya and the Shadow Fold, and all sorts of other things in this world that I can't wait to revisit.

Recommended for fans of Graceling/Fire, Maria V. Snyder's study series, epic fantasy books like Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, and anyone who loves a gorgeous, magical setting.

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