Bookish | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Review)

10194157Surrounded 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.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

Personal Enjoyment: ●●●○○
Writing Quality: ●●●●○
Recommendability: ●●●●○

I originally picked this book up during the summer. I purchased all three books in the Grisha trilogy at once (completely forgetting I’d owned the first two books on kindle for at least a year). I read about 90 pages before setting it aside to read other things. Then, my favorite bookstore, The King’s English, announced that the author, Leigh Bardugo, was doing a signing for the release of her new book, Grisha companion Six of Crows, so I quickly speed-read through Shadow and Bone because I hate going to signings when I haven’t read the author’s books.

Overall, it was good. After a plethora of five-star rave reviews, I noted this book was pretty average. It is definitely capable of being some people’s favorite books, especially if they don’t read a lot of upper-YA fantasy. The writing was sometimes surprising; if I had picked this book up at the time of its release, I would have been more impressed. This was great for a debut, but overall, just good.

The prologue to Shadow and Bone was gorgeous and intriguing, so it was a little disappointing when the rest of the book was written entirely differently, and entirely average. The prologue is written like a dark new fairytale; the rest of the book follows the same or similar YA-fantasy tropes. The chosen one, the brooding love interest, the best friend, the love triangle, the sassy lady sidekick, and eyeroll the makeover.

It so bothers me when the protagonist gets a makeover. She’s already the chosen one, the Sun Summoner, who has miraculously unlocked hidden powers She Never Knew She Was Capable Of! So why is it important to stress her outward physical appearance? After this initial makeover is when I put the book down. I’m just so tired of reading about pretty people doing all the important things, and everyone else being demoted to “side character”.

BUT.

BUT THEN.

CAN YOU READ HOW BIG THIS “BUT” IS?

But then I found this article written by Leigh Bardugo herself on Makeovers in Fairytales and YA about beauty transcending class and other power-dynamics, and it made me reevaluate my stance on this particular makeover. I wrote a slightly longer piece on my Facebook page (“like”?) but the gist of it is this: Alina’s initial makeover is superficial, at the behest of the Darkling, which fades in the span of a few days. Her second physical transformation/makeover comes at the embrace of her own inner power and manifests itself outwardly as whole-body health and wellness as opposed to a conformation to traditional standards of beauty. I appreciate Leigh Bardugo’s awareness and subsequent attempt to subvert this harmful trope in her own work, but I still do not like or see the necessity in constantly reaffirming the protagonist’s good looks instead of celebrating her personality/magical powers/etc which actually contribute to the narrative.

Lastly, I think “Ravka” was a little too closely based on actual Russia for there to be so many minute inconsistencies in the language, but had I not read Goodreads reviews from actual Russians I wouldn’t have noticed. As it were, I spent the entire book staring cynically at the repurposed Russian words. If you’re not an actual Russian and can look at Ravka as a wholly separate fantasy country, you’ll probably enjoy it a whole lot more.

I enjoyed Shadow and Bone. I have full faith that the rest of the series will be much better and more interesting and exciting. It feels a little like the first book was just information I needed to get through in order to get into the real story, but I still liked it well enough and will be continuing with this series.

alecksis.

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2 thoughts on “Bookish | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Review)

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