Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone #1) – Leigh Bardugo

shadow and bone

three and a half stars black

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Pages: 358
Release Date: June 5, 2012

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 decided to pick up Shadow and Bone because of Netflix’s acquisition of the rights. When Shadow and Bone first started making the rounds on booktube, I wasn’t interested. I wish I had read it then because I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more. Though, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it now.

The biggest issue I had with Shadown and Bone is the main character, Alina. Alina is incredibly bland. There’s nothing exceptional or overly interesting about her other than her name. She’s your typical protagonist in a YA fantasy: the chosen one who will save the world. Almost every character outshines her. Alina also has little to no agency. Alina knows nothing about the world she lives in, which is frustrating. She comes off as naive most of the time. I understand that the reader is learning about the world and magic as Alina learns it, but she’s a solider in the army that has contact with the more magical plotline, so you would think she knows certain things or at least rumours.

Mal starts out as the typical all around handsome and great guy that overlooks his best friend. I’m a sucker for the friends to lovers trope, so I was excited to see how this played out on a YA fantasy setting. Unfortunately, Mal is a disappointment. He disappears for a large portion of the book only to resurface as a complete asshole. I had no sympathy for his plight.

The Darkling is mysterious with a slightly sexual vibe. Every scene with him is great. I wish there were more because I was definitely intrigued.

“The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak.”

Bardugo does a great job of establishing the setting. Her descriptions along with the map, paint a vivid picture of the landscape. Ravka feels lived in in the best ways possible. Unfortunately, the magic system is underdeveloped and used when it’s convenient to move the plot forward. There’s also no clear explanation about the powers, especially in regards to The Darkling. Perhaps that was intentional to create more mystery for the character.

Overall, Shadow and Bone is a fast paced and quick read that kept me glued to the pages. I almost read it in one sitting. Would I recommend it? Depends on who’s asking.


Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think? Are you excited for the TV show?

7 thoughts on “Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone #1) – Leigh Bardugo

  1. I picked up these books because I found out about the TV show. I’ve been dying for a good YA fantasy TV show and it sounded good. But everything you’ve said here, I agree with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change throughout the series, either. I’m on book 3 and have the same feelings still.

      1. I’ll let you know if it’s worth is. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through. I’m more interested in the Six of Crows duology, but wanted to read all these books in order 😂

  2. I have to say- I read this after I read Six of Crows and was not impressed. I’m baffled this is the one they are turning into a show.

    That sounds super negative- and I don’t mean it that way, but like you said, Alina is super bland, while I felt like the SoC cast was diverse and far more complex. Great review!

    1. That was my original thought as well, but apparently they’re adapting Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows at the same time since they have similar timelines, I think.

      That’s good! I’ll definitely have to get to it before the show airs.

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