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By Leigh Bardugo
Source: The Library
Goodreads Summary: 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.
Review: Fantasy is, without a doubt, one of my favorite genres. When done well, it can take you out of your life and completely immerse you in another world. Unfortunately, as a fantasy, Shadow and Bone fell a little short for me.
Maybe it's because I hold all YA fantasy up to the bar Kristin Cashore has set with her Graceling books, but the world-building in this book wasn't up to par. Alina's world is unique and fascinating, but I never felt as if I had complete understanding of the dynamics, though maybe that will be explored more in future books. In the beginning, I felt thrust into the world with no sense of direction, and it took me a while to work things out.
Alina was a strong protagonist, but I never felt completely connected to her. Other than an obvious change near the middle of the book, I didn't see much development from her. Many of the other characters felt flat to me, and I had trouble caring about them. The one character I almost immediately took to was Genya, a servant at the palace who Alina befriends. Their relationship was the only one that felt real to me. I thought the romantic relationships and sort-of-kind-of love triangle felt forced and awkward.
The pacing of this book is very well done. I was never bored, even when there wasn't anything especially exciting happening. Although, I'm someone who enjoys reading about palace drama and workings, which was a big part of this book. The first half seems very straightforward and predictable, but the second half is when everything really gets interesting. I didn't see the plot twist coming and was pleasantly surprised with the direction it went. This book really shines in the second half.
Though it wasn't the best fantasy book I've read, I enjoyed Shadow and Bone and will probably pick up the sequel when it comes out. I enjoyed the plot, and I hope to see more world-building in the second book.