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Monday, May 27, 2013

“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

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Shadow and Bone is the first installment of Leigh Bardugo's The Grisha Trilogy, and I absolutely loved it. It takes place in a fantasy setting with a distinctly Russian flavor, and I do enjoy breaking out of the medieval western European fantasy mold. The magic system is well-executed if not terribly innovative. In fact, many fantasy tropes have been twisted and dropped in, but I think it was done deftly. The plot is well paced. The description was evocative, and that’s coming from a person whose natural inclination is to skip over descriptive parts entirely.

All of these aspects were strong; the characters were great. Bardugo was great at giving just enough detail, not overwhelming with it, to make all the side characters really solid. The protagonist, Alina Starkov, is sort of a cross between the innocent orphan and the wise-cracking heroine tropes. She is clever, and she thinks about her world, but she is still out of her depth and fully aware of that. It’s the best of both worlds, and it was refreshing to see such an imperfect, self-aware heroine.

Shadow and Bone has the best villain I have read in ages. I’m going to use the male gendered pronoun for expediency here and say I loved him. For most of the book I was rooting for him, and I didn’t even realize he was the villain. Then after I knew he was the villain, I was still half-rooting for him. I kept forgetting why I shouldn’t be, because he was just that compelling. Brilliant.

I’m really not doing this book any kind of justice. Bardugo is tackling complex issues all over the place. I think my jaw actually dropped a little when I read about the origin of the volcra. This author understands the consequences of actions and ideologies. She makes you question without handing you an easy answer.

This novel really has everything. It was beyond entertaining, and it made me think, which is, in my opinion, the very best kind of book. The sequel, Siege and Storm, will be out June 4, 2013.


bibliotropic said...

The biggest problem I had with this book is the last of intrigue. Oh, the plot itself had plenty of intrigue for the characters to deal with, but from a reader's perspective, it wasn't at all difficult to tell who was a good guy and who was a bad guy, and what the bulk of their agendas were. A little more subtlety in that area would have made the book awesome for me, instead of just very good. (Although a very good book is still nothing to sneer at, and I still enjoyed reading it even if it did have an issue here and there.)

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) said...

I started reading this determined to ignore the linguistic and cultural inaccuracies and while they were there, I must admit it was easier than I anticipated. The story was really captivating and after a while, I failed to notice anything but the characters.
And I agree about the villain!
Great review.

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