Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: Shadow and 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.

Hardcover, 358 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.

(info grabbed from GoodReads)

It took me awhile to get into this book, but I'm glad I kept reading.  I'd heard mixed things and was feeling iffy when I started reading.  Shadow and Bone doesn't really start slowly, I just didn't have that pulled-in feeling until a lot later than usual.  I usually fell “into” the story before page 100, but at that point, I was intrigued enough to keep reading but not foaming at the mouth quite yet.  It was probably page 200-ish that I started to be like O_O.

Epic fantasy is not my normal love, even though it kind of was my first love.  As a little Mome Rath, I loved the fantastical worlds authors could create.  It was a great escape from boring suburban America for me.  However, a little less than twenty years later, it’s not my go-to genre.  That being said, I really liked the world of Shadow and Bone.  It was dark, fantastical, and original, with the author creating her own monsters and evil-ocean-thing.  The Russian influence was interesting and added some flair, though I don’t feel it needs more mention than that.  It did add a different feel, as most fantasy tends to be more Western European inspired with very few exceptions.

The reason I began stray away high fantasy/epic fantasy years ago was because they tend to bore the crap out of me.  I'd rather have someone pull out my teeth than read Lord of the Rings.  No offense to anyone who loves Tolkien, his writing is just not for me.  Shadow and Bone did not bore me; it was everything that made me fall in love with fantasy in the first place.  Excitement, magic, betrayal… prime fantasy goodness at its best.

The one thing that REALLY makes Shadow and Bone stand out to me is that I was truly surprised.  Now maybe other people won’t be, but I really didn’t see one twist coming.  And I loved it.  That pushed Shadow and Bone into the exceptional category for me and makes me hungry for the sequel.  I recommend it to anyone who thinks they may like fantasy or anyone who desires something different. 

Final Thought: 10 out of 12 rushin’ Russian toadstools

PS: I do have to note though to anyone familiar with Slavic names that the main characters name is …well, wrong.  In Russia, last names for women end with an “a.”  So in the book, her last name is Starkov, where it should be Starkova.  There are a few other name issues in there, but I felt it was easy to read past it.  Some may be more sensitive than me to accuracy, though.  I’m just happy that an Eastern European inspired book exists.

This review is also posted on GoodReads

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