Note: I apologise in advance for use of any inappropriate GIFs. I couldn’t help myself.
I haven’t updated this blog for a while now and for that I sincerley apologise. The Computer Science degree has been getting harder latley with all the maths, and I’ve been putting my writing ahead of my reading, so I haven’t had very much to blog about anyway. Anyway, on with the review…
Shadow and Bone is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while now and as soon as I got a Kobo (yes, I have gone to the dark side of e-readers) I knew I had to read it. And 99p, it was impossible to pass up.
For those of you who don’t know what the hype is all about, here is a brief synopsis from Goodreads:
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him
For me, one of the best things about this book was the world building. Bardugo has taken a great amount of inspiration from Russia, as is clear on the cover. I know a number of people on goodreads.com were particularly annoyed that she may not have used Russia’s culture to its full potential. Russian names were used, and occasional Russian foods, and of course, kvas, a Russian drink. Some people will get hung up on the fact that the protagonist, Alina Starkov, should have been called Starkova because she is a girl. Admittedly, I also have a problem with this, but in the big scheme of things, it is but a minor annoyance.
Now I talk about my favourite part. MAGIC! The country of Ravka have two armies, The First Army, which consists of humans, and The Second Army, which consists of the magical people known as the Grisha. Grisha power is known as the small science, because the word ‘magic’ is a negative connotation, much like the word ‘witch’ often is in other novels. The Grisha are categorised in smaller groups depending on their powers. There are three main groups:
The Etherealki, The Order of the Summoners.
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They are divided into Inferni, Squallers and Tidemakers. Summoners deal with the elements and by extension, even the Darkling and Alina are Summoners because of their powers over shadows and light. Summoners wear blue keta, with different coloured embroidery depending on which element they control.
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They are divided into Durasts and Alkemi. (I’m not certain whether this is specified in the first book.)
Fabrikators build things. They are the tinkers and inventors, and they are often looked down upon by other Grisha becuase they are essentially the nerds of any high school. The Fabrikators wear purple kefta robes.
Corporalki– the Order of the Living and the Dead.
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The subtypes are Heartrenders, and Healers. Heartrenders can slow the heart or squeeze the life out of someone by stopping their heart. Healers are self-explanatory. They heal. Coparalki wear red kefta robes.
The Darkling is a mysterious man with great power. He is second only to the King of Ravka himself, and head of the Second Army. He is the only one permitted to wear a black kefta.
I thought the idea of giving the different Grisha different coloured robes was an interesting idea. In doing so, the members of the Second Army became more of a high school, seperating themselves into different factions and cliques. The Summoners argued with the Coporalki and the Fabrikators mostly stuck to their metal. On the surface, it was quite entertaining, but there were still a few problems.
My major concern with it all was that we were not exposed to their powers enough. Every now and then we’d have a Heartrender stop someone’s heart, or a Fabrikator make something, but mostly we were simply told what they were capabale of. You would expect for a protagonist knew to the ways of the Small Science, they would actually teach her. And maybe although Alina had a magic teacher and a fighting instructor, I still think I would have liked to know more of what she and all the other characters were capable of. I wanted something beyond the surface of the basic cattiness of the different Orders, and more of actual teaching. Maybe if Alina hadn’t avoided all the other Summoners…
Characters were often identified by what colour kefta they wore, and we didn’t really get to know much about anyone save for a handful of characters. The only powers that were really shown were the powers of the Darkling, Genya, and of course, Alina.
Another problem I had were all the names. Sometimes the author called them Materalki, and other times they were Fabrikators. Sometimes Summoners were called Etheralki, and I found the interchangeable names confusing.
Some readers will complain about the vague “Russianess” of everything. Bardugo has taken liberties with the Russian culture and so even the words which may sound like Russian are not completely Russian, or are not translated properly. I saw a particularly furious review on Goodreads about the stereotypical use of a Chinese inspired trainer called Botkin. They seemed particularly outraged at his bad English, or bad “Ravkan” or whatever the characters of this book speak, and his general blood-thirstiness because this a popular trope in fiction. Think, Atilla the Hun.
Alina Starkov’s world is turned upside down one day when she realises that she is accused of being a Sun Summoner. No such thing has ever existed before, so it is quite an unbelievable accusation, one that the Darkling himself puts to the test. And can I just say, through most of the novel, and maybe even into the sequel, I am Team Darkling?
Whisked away by the Darkling to be trained at the Little Palace (He’s really being quite modest!), Alina fears she will never see her best friend, Mal. Alina must destroy the Shadow Fold, and now that the weight of the whole country is on her shoulders, she finds herself longing for her old life when she was nothing more than a simple map maker.
The plot Leigh Bardugo has employed is nothing overly original. Girl discovers latent power. Girl must overcome obstacles and deceptions in order to save the kingdom. But there’s nothing wrong with using a tried and tested method. The storyline itself may not be overly original, but the way Bardugo has written made the novel simply enticing. Sometimes I’m in Alina’s head and I can’t help but really feel for her, and yet other times I want to slap her and be like “Get your head in the game!”.
Alina yearns for Mal and is ungrateful whilst she whines about not being treated well by other Grisha who are obviously jealous of her. This might annoy some readers but I find it quite understandable. At the end of the day, Alina is only human… figuratively speaking. After all, Alina is Grisha.
There are only a few memorable characters in this novel, and on the surface I find that they are all very intriguing, but I do wish I had gotten to know some of them better.
I whirled, peering into the gloom. The Darkling’s voice seemed to float out of the shadows. He walked down to the stream, crouching on the bank to splash water on his face and through his dark hair.
“Well?” he asked, looking up at me.
“Myself,” I admitted.
“Are you that funny?”
Alina is feisty and intriguing. She isn’t a hardcore bad-ass, but I think that’s okay. I liked seeing her come into her power when she was training. She does have her whiney tendencies but I thought that was quite normal, and she did get over it after a while. There’s not a lot I can say about her without revealing spoilers but for the most part I’d have to say that Alina was an average heroine. I think she becomes stronger in the sequel but in this debut to the trilogy she is really just trying to find her place in the world.
“The problem with wanting,” he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, “is that it makes us weak.”
Oh my gosh, what to say first about this guy? He is alluring, powerful, and an overall bad-ass. I loved almost everything about him, especially nearer to the beginning. He is the true power of Ravka, and boy does he know it. He thinks the king as a child, and detests the Royal family in general. I expected the twist that Bardugo wrote, and despite it all, or maybe because of it, I still loved him. Alina and the Darkling? I ship it!
Maybe my biggest problem with him is that we don’t get to know much about him. I mean, sure, there is that awesome revelation, but the very fact that we never get to know his real name dehumanises him. Of course, it goes both ways. To know too much is to ruin that mysterious allure of his.
Oh Mal. He is like the anti-Darkling. He is completley human, but mind you, still very attractive. He even gained the attention of a blue robed Grisha near the beginning. He is Alina’s best friend, but he never really notices her in that way. Alina on the other hand has been crushing on Mal for ages, and I find it quite sad that he doesn’t seem to really notice her until he loses her.
In spite of this, Mal isn’t completely useless. He is a tracker in the First Army, and he can find just about anything. I can’t really say how he uses this gift becuase that would be a spoiler, but, yeah, Mal got skills.
Despite this, I’m not really a huge fan of him. It’s not simply because he will never match up to the allure of the Darkling. It’s because as a human, I’m not sure he will ever understand Alina, now that she is Grisha. This pairing is completely eclipsed by the Alina/Darkling pairing.