Shadow and Bone

shadow_bone_sketch_both3Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Published: 6-5-12 by Henry Holt and Co.
Get the book: Amazon, The Book Depository

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

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Design – Rich Deas          Illustration + lettering – Jen Wang     Rating – 5/5

This is a work of art. I think this cover is beautiful and I would hang it on my wall. The hand-lettering is gorgeous and fits so well with the story. I love the way the red is used as a highlight for each letter, how the letters are sharp and dangerous, and how the shadowy black ribbons emanate from the letters. The way that the black ribbon swirls intertwine with the bones is lovely and I appreciate that the antlers aren’t just mirrored, they’re each unique. The Russian palace is perfect to sort of ground everything and the way the front of it is so dark to highlight the author’s name is great. The font of the name complements the title so well. Even the crackly, icy texture of the background is amazing. I also really like the way the bones become brighter white around the title to showcase it.

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Shadow and Bone is a book that does not hesitate to sink its claws into your heart and jerk it around. At first, it plays out like most YA paranormal stories – with a heroine discovering her powers and then having to deal with them. Thankfully, it differentiates itself with focus on action, a class system, and military service. It’s like the cover – complicated yet elegant. Shadow and Bone falls into a lot of the typical YA paranormal patterns – love triangle, jealous mean girls, hidden powers – but the way it unfolds makes it easier to let these things fall into the background and just enjoy the story’s main plot.

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  • twists – The stakes are high in Shadow and Bone, so the twists are intense and extreme. I didn’t see it coming at all, which is something I love from a book. I really admire authors who manage to blindside you with a huge twist that leaves you wondering how you didn’t see it coming. I’m still wondering why I didn’t realize what was happening.
  • military – Both Alina and Mal are in the field with their group when the story opens. They each have different roles in the military, but they are definitely all risking their lives. Shadow and Bone doesn’t pull the punches – the world may not be in an all-out war, but people die in awful ways. This world is strange, with the powerful Grisha ensconced in a palace far from the action while the soldiers risking their lives are those without special abilities.
  • Genya – Genya is an interesting character because she serves the queen, yet is also technically a Grisha in her own right. She becomes a much-needed friend to lonely Alina, and helps her adjust to life in the palace. But Genya is looked down upon and it’s clear that her allies are few, that she’s on her own. Genya may know her way around the Grisha court’s whispers and intrigue, but you never quite know where her loyalty lies.
  • Mal – Mal comes across as an authentic person. He doesn’t always do or say the right thing. He gets confused and angry and hurt. Mal and Alina’s relationship isn’t a smooth ride, but he doesn’t give up on her. I admire Mal’s character and bravery – a man with no Grisha powers doing all that he can to help Alina and the repair the damage to their world because he has a sense of duty to do so.

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  • Grisha class system – I tend to avoid books where a class system struggle is a major factor or focus, so the Grisha systems gets on my nerves. There are 3 or 4 different Grisha groups. They have different skills and powers, they are identified by different colors, and they segregate themselves. The Grisha are nasty to those in groups other than their own and they clearly look down on those who don’t have powers, and even those who have powers they consider to be inconsequential. Basically, the Grisha are pompous and cruel, yet they are the people who are valued and elevated in this society.
  • YA tropes – Not only does Alina suddenly discover her powers, she also just happens to be the person with unique, special powers that the Darkling has been searching for. Speaking of the Darkling, Alina is also involved in a love triangle – not just a love triangle, but a love triangle with the safe and familiar childhood friend vs. the mysterious and seductive newcomer. And despite the whole ‘we have to save the world with our powers’ thing, the Grisha females are petty and cruel like they’re in a high school somewhere. Mean girls in YA bother me, and in fantasy/paranormal/whatever non-contemporary you can think of, I only appreciate mean girls who go all-out with it. If they’re not plotting murder or betrayal, they’re just unnecessary. It bothers me that only the female Grisha are portrayed as jealous and gossipy, while the males manage to escape this characteristic.

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“You’re shaking,” he said.

“I’m not used to people trying to kill me.”

“Really? I hardly notice anymore.”

I turned to look at him. That trace of a smile was still there, but I wasn’t entirely sure he was kidding. I turned back around and said, “And I did just see a man get sliced in half.” I kept my voice light, but I couldn’t hide the fact that I was still trembling.           – the Darkling + Alina   pg. 72

 

“You’re wearing his symbol,” he observed, his glance flicking to the little gold charm hanging at my neckline. “His symbol and his color.”

“They’re just clothes.”

Mal’s lips twisted in a cynical smile, a smile so different from the one I knew and loved that I almost flinched. “You don’t really believe that.”    – Mal + Alina   pg. 230

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

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