What’s to love?
- Fresh fantasy world with Russian influences
- Tender love story between dynamic characters
- A plot to save…or end…the world
Find my review of book two, Siege and Storm, here.
Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina Starkov, a scrawny orphan girl who’s in love with her devastatingly handsome best friend, Mal. As a soldier serving her war torn country, Ravka, Alina prepares to cross the “Unsea,” an area of land covered in darkness and populated by flying monsters called the Volkra. Trying to protect herself and Mal when their convoy is attacked, Alina discovers a power she didn’t know she had, making her a member of the elite Grisha, the people who practice magic (but don’t call it magic to their faces, they call it the “Small Science”). Now, the Grisha leader, the Darkling (enter tall, dark handsome potential love interest number two) believes Alina’s power is the answer to saving Ravka from the power of the “Unsea.”
Spoilers begin here. You have been warned!
The main character, Alina Starkov.
Spunky and bold, Alina is a character I can get behind. Even after being dragged to an unfamiliar place and being bossed around, Alina stands up for herself. When the intimidating Darkling tells her what to do, she questions him. Some may argue that she falls for the Darkling’s game too easily when he starts to woo her— it fits her character, though. She’s bristly, but she was also a neglected orphan. The one love interest she ever had, Mal, treated her more like one of the guys than a girl. Why wouldn’t she fall for the powerful, handsome, smooth man?
She grows throughout her journey as well. She may seem like a passive damsel, doing whatever the Darkling wants and moping after Mal most of her life, but she lets go of Mal. Without any resentment, she recognizes that she was stifling her power all of her life. She also recognizes that Mal neglects her, calling on her when convenient for him. (“But Mal never got her letters!” you may argue. She doesn’t know that. She’s standing up for herself while under the impression that no matter how much she cares for Mal, she’s not going to get anywhere pining after him).
Once Alina can summon light on her own, she picks everything up really fast. Such as at the end of the novel when she pulled out “the cut” (cue, “ooooh, aaaaah”) without any previous training. I would have liked to see her fine honing her skills.
I love the description of the Darkling’s power. Because it’s cool.
“He spread his arms and terror washed through me as I saw his palms filling with something black that pooled and curled through the air like ink in water.
‘Now,’ he said in that same soft, conversational voice, as if we were sitting together drinking tea, as if I did not stand before him shaking, ‘let’s see what you can do.’
He brought his hands together and there was a sound like a thunderclap. I gasped as undulating darkness spread from his clasped hands, spilling in a black wave over me and the crowd.
I was blind.”