Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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.

Synopsis by Goodreads

Shortly after Mother’s Day, I took my thoughtful gift (from the hubby) on a trip to Barnes & Noble. I thought I’d begin buying new copies of Harry Potter but my local store didn’t have the Kazu Kibuishi editions I’m dying to get. As I was walking by one of the many display tables, Shadow and Bone caught my eye. I quick scan told me all the books on display were part of the same universe. It looked familiar, even the universe, Grishaverse, sounded familiar. I picked up Shadow and Bone to read the back cover when realization dawned on me, of course, I’ve seen these books. Like Sky in the Deep, the series is littered through bookstagram.

That’s when I hesitated. I picked up Shadow and Bone then placed it back on the table not once but twice. To be honest, I was intimidated by how many books were already in the universe. I had no idea where to start plus I really wasn’t sure I wanted to start another young adult series. I eventually did push the hesitation aside and I’m really happy I did.

I’ll admit, initially I was not impressed and I felt the map was confusing AF. Literally thirty pages later, I was eating my words. As soon as Alina hit the shadow fold my interest piqued. That said, I never actually read the back cover during my hesitation, I picked it up solely on Instagram recommendations. Though it says it on the back cover, I still easily guessed that Alina was a powerful Grisha and the only one of her kind too. I suppose if I had bothered to read the back cover the guesswork would have been taken out of the equation.

Spoilers ahead

Guessing Alina’s identity was by no means off-putting (but thrilling.) For me, the most off-putting aspect of Shadow and Bone was Mal. In regards to Mal, I can’t be the only one that wanted to see him eaten by Volcra?

I didn’t have any problems with Mal when he was separate from Alina. It was when they came back together that I began to despise their connection. While his declaration was honest and vulnerable, I didn’t feel the chemistry the reader was meant to feel. Ok so maybe desiring to see him eaten by Volcra is a tad intense… I’d be happy knowing he was alive and banished if that’s any better?

My sentiments on Mal aside, I cannot get my mind off The Darkling. Bardugo wrote such a mysterious, alluring, and seductive villain. One that I am actively rooting for. The sexual chemistry between Alina and The Darkling oozes off the pages.

I’d been kissed before, drunken mistakes, awkward fumblings. This was nothing like that. It was sure and powerful and like my whole body had just come awake. I could feel my pounding heart, the press of silk against my skin, the strength of his arms around me, one hand buried deep in my hair, the other at my back, pulling me closer. The moment his lips met mine, the connection between us openend and I felt his power flood through me.

Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone; pg 220

I’m not delusional, I’m aware of how dangerous The Darkling is. There’s just enough vulnerability left in him to keep me firmly rooted in his favor.

And that’s unique. Typically, one does not actively root for villains nor do they see incredible realness in their protagonists. Often times in young adult novels the protagonist is a heightened version of whatever society deems “perfect.” Even Genya’s talent reminds me of what modern day teenage YouTubers can do with makeup. For a short time, they too can teach you the powers of contouring, overlining, and shadowing. Alina adamantly refuses further tampering from Genya but that doesn’t make her remarkably unique or real. What is it that makes her those things then?

It was that she fell in love with The Darkling and doesn’t deny it.

Prior to her Grisha abilities showing themselves, she was hopelessly in love with Mal, who never bothered to see her. Unlike some protagonists (cough, Bella,) Alina interpreted Mal’s lack of communication with indifference. She chose to move on and in doing so, fell in love with another man.

” I don’t care if you danced naked on the roof of the Little Palace with him. I love you, Alina, even the part of you that loved him.”

I wanted to deny it, to erase it, but I couldn’t.

Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone; pg 331

I never anticipated falling in love with the series but I did. You can’t anticipate what your heart craves and if it craves another young adult series, then so be it. Next up Seige and Storm – I hope it’s as good as its predecessor! Fingers crossed!

Amanda

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