Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone

by Leigh Bardugo

4 out of 5

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold - a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country's magical military elite - and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.

Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

Alina is an orphan, with nothing of value, except her best friend Mal. But soon they are to be separated by a secret she didn't know she had - Alina is a grisha - a magic-user.

I got the Audible version of the book, and I really enjoyed, so much so, that I sat in my car, waiting for chapters to finish!

Alina is plain-looking, no athletic ability, and aside from being rather good at drawing, she has no skill that makes her stand out. She is used to being a shadow, and a nobody, because her best friend Mal is the opposite. He is handsome, part of the army, and the best tracker in Ravka.
Everything changes when they are sent on an apparently-suicide-mission. Something is unlocked in Alina, and she suddenly becomes one of the rarest grisha in history.

The story then follows Alina being swept away to the capital, to the King's court, and the world of magic - things that had been as real as fairytales in her life as a commoner.
There is the mystery of why Alina's powers hid for so long, and an ongoing search for how to unlock them.

Alina is... a bit of a wet rag. She's likable enough, but she's very bland. She constantly bemoans the fact that she's plain looking, and compares herself to the beautiful grisha, and every attractive girl that catches Mal's eye. But, she doesn't do anything about it, nor about anything else. She lets everyone move her around like a puppet, doing everything she is told, no matter how much she hates it.

Luckily, the rest of the cast more than make up for it. Especially the Darkling and Genya. They were definitely my favourite part.
Genya is the beautiful outsider in the grisha world, and quickly becomes Alina's closest friend and confidante.
And the Darkling... well, the handsome, mysterious, morally questionable man who stirs up passion in Alina... yup, I definitely like a bad boy. And despite what he does, I still prefer him to Mal.

The plot is a nice, easy read. There are a couple of twists (nowhere near the amount in Bardugo's Six of Crows), and it all pulls you along nicely.
The emphasis is on Alina getting pretty, dressing as a grisha, and being torn between her confusing feelings for Mal and Darkling. The world and its implications are definitely in the background. It's not often mentioned in detail, but the way it's woven into the story makes it feel like Bardugo know the world well, even if she's not sharing it all now.

This is a fun, light read, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.


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