Overall Rating: 4/5
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Read if you loved: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Divergent by Veronica Roth
Content warnings: None
I have been having a real craving for a tv/movie adaptation of a good book. I know, I know – they’re never satisfying, are they? Alas, I fall into the trap every single time and despite the many failures, there is just something about the prospect of seeing your imagination come to life on a screen that will forever be appealing to me. So, when I found out that Netflix’s Shadow and Bone is out next month…I knew what I had to do. The Grisha trilogy has been sitting on my kindle for a while now, and it felt like a sign from the universe to dive right in.
Alina Starkov and Mal Oretsev grew up as orphans under the protection of a benevolent Duke. Bonded by their shared traumas, the two remain in each other’s orbits as they grow into adults, but while Mal flourishes in his new duties, Alina finds herself lingering in the shadows. During a dangerous expedition across the Shadow Fold – a terrifying creation doomed to destroy most that dare to traverse it – Alina discovers a frightening power, one that changes the course of her life, drawing her into the sphere of the revered and magically-gifted Grisha. The first novel in Leigh Bardugo’s acclaimed series introduces riveting characters in an enchanting Russia-inspired universe that will enthrall you from the get go. While there were some unrealized plot opportunities, it left me excited about its potential trajectory given the rich world-building and sweeping storylines.
Few books hook me in as quickly as this one did. The world building is complex; it took me longer to fully learn the ins and outs of Bardugo’s universe, but once I was in it, I was ready for the ride (I will say – I’d recommend a hard copy of this book if possible, just so you can flip back and forth to cross-reference terms). The female characters are incredible, which will nearly always win me over. Alina is a highly relatable protagonist and is so easy to root for – there is just the right amount of balance between her past and her present, lending readers a clear look into the remarkable character development she undergoes. Throw Genya and Baghra in the mix, and you have a range of dynamic women that shatter expectations and demonstrate strength in their own unique ways. And of course, we have to talk about the romance. The angst in this book hit the *right* spot for me. You definitely need to be in the mood for that classic YA tension, but I was lapping up every word.
The one issue (albeit, a fairly large one) I had with the book is with some of the big plot twists because they seemed a little…lazy? This review is spoiler-free so let’s just say I wish more thought, justification, and knowledge from the fantasy universe went into how pivotal points played out. The climax had major deus-ex-machina vibes (nearly always a cop out, in my humble reader opinion) and I just felt a little bit disappointed because it felt like there was more that could have been done. Of course, there are also a couple of overused tropes in this book, and while I did roll my eyes at certain points, I did not mind them as much because they really took on the story’s essence.
Ultimately, I had a lot of fun with Shadow and Bone! And that was what I wanted to get out of it – to have fun, delve into a universe, and hopefully see a magical adaptation from my couch next month (just let me stay positive, please). I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good old angsty YA fantasy novel, or someone looking to satiate their quench for pure entertainment. If the rest of the series is as fast-paced as this first book, I should get through it all before the first episode but I will be trying to sprinkle in some of the ARCs I received recently as well! Anyways, I’m obviously late to the game with Shadow and Bone so if you have read the series – let me know what you think in the comments below!