Henry Holt and Co.
YA Fantasy, 368 pages
Acquired and read: Through NetGalley (one of the many reasons to love being a book blogger!) and I read it within an hour last night. I have no will power whatsoever when it comes to ARCs.
Challenge? 2012 Debut Author Challenge
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 unlikely 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.
Shadow and Bone is one of those amazing 2012 debuts that delivers everything the blurb promises you. And I mean everything.
Let's start off with Alina. The main character, the heroine, the poor lamb being led to the slaughter - well, that was how I felt for her more than once in the course of the storyline. For some reason, she also reminded me a bit of the cartoon Anastasia: tough, I can handle it, but also with a soft heart that is often bruised by her strained relationship with her childhood best friend and the fact that she has totally scary powers that she didn't even know about.
I mean, can you imagine how much pressure it must be on your shoulders, to be the Sun Summoner - to have people worship you like a saint when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry?
Yes. I did want to hug her a few times. I'm not sure how well that would be received though.
Mal. The childhood best friend, the love interest (at least the one that a reader feels like rooting for) and an awesome soldier. Of course, he had to taint it a little bit for me by being a total womanizer - at first - and not seeing the girl right in front of him. YA heroes. They can be so clueless.
I am very loath to mention the Darkling - a. because I will probably blurt out a spoiler that will have everyone who hasn't read this yet beating me over the head with their blog headers (ouch!) or b. the author will come after me with her scary makeup brushes and be like, "You spoil my novel, child? You die!"
Yes. My imagination gets way ahead of me.
Okay. What I will say about the Darkling is that he is young (of course), tall, dark and handsome (to be expected) and...he's on the Dark Side. What do you expect from the title? Just so you know - I wouldn't take any cookies to join his Dark Side. Nope. It's more trouble than it's worth.
On to the world-building (which, as you know, is pretty much the main reason why I love fantasy)...Alina and her world are amazing. Leigh Bardugo used Russian culture to weave her own amazing fantasy-world, where samovars and thick coats exist beside ancient evils the likes of which don't exist in this world...and royals who definitely would have deserved a little revolution had they actually lived in Russia.
Believe me. This tsar is a total pig.
Also, Keith Thompson drew a map of Ravka (see here on Leigh's blog)...yes, THE KEITH THOMPSON. Now you can hang it up on your wall and pretend there's a real place out there you can go to visit, if only to see the volcra in their native habitat and brave the dangers of the Unsea.
Warnings: (Or, things that even if this book was undoubtedly awesome, bothered me...) Mal and his buddies being a pack of womanizers - never in detail. Some instances of language, one or two kissing scenes, thematic violence and some pinches of innuendo.