SHADOW AND BONE
Warning! Minor Spoilers!
I AM A SUCKER for a good villain.
Shadow and Bone is a fantasy YA novel, but the ambiguous character of the Darkling, the powerful leader of the sorcerous Grisha, manages to be complex on so many levels that I just wanted to shake him and yell: “Tell me your secrets!”
He is probably the chief reason you should read this book. Although I really loved the introduction to main characters Alina and her handsome friend Mal, orphans who live a tough life growing up along the monstrous Fold, the book lost its momentum when Alina was sent to the Ravka palace. Some time is spent developing her “Sun Summoner” powers, an ability to call light that could end the nightmarish Fold cutting Ravka off from the rest of the world, but more is spent judging her fellow females and lamenting her plainness. Insecurity is a hard line for authors to walk when it consumes their main character—it’s tough to make it relatable rather than descend into a pity fest—and I feel like it fell into the latter category for most of the book.
Much of the mythology and world-building was inspired by Russian folklore, and there were a lot of places it worked well, like with the symbolism of the stag. Other parts, like the Russian-inspired language, didn’t seem to transfer over as well—as others have pointed out, Alina’s family name is “Starkov” rather than the feminine form, “Starkova.” Starkova sounds prettier, too, *sigh*.
I did like Alina’s relationship with Mal and feel that the regiment-minded Mal has a lot of potential—I hope he doesn’t become just a love interest, but has an agenda of his own. I also enjoyed how the Darkling made Alina wrestle with her choices of right or wrong, and the final unraveling of their relationship left me breathless with excitement for what is to come.
Alina did develop more of a backbone by the end of the book, and just the thought of the elemental-wielding Grisha in action makes me happy, so I am eager to get my hands on Book II: Seige and Storm.
Recommended for fans of: Sophie Jordan, Rae Carson
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