Friday, May 25, 2012
Alina Starkov is unimportant, unremarkable, and never really excelled at anything. She grew up as an orphan in an orphanage with Mal and together they enlisted for the military when they were old enough. They are cartographers together, Mal being the talented one, and they run into trouble when their regiment crosses the barren and dangerous Shadow Fold that splits the nation Ravka with impenetrable darkness and winged carnivorous monsters. When she and Mal are about to be monster food, light bursts from her, scaring away the monsters, and she passes out. She later finds out she is the most rare type of Grisha, a Sun Summoner. She is immediately whisked away by the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha, to the palace where she endures training (both fighting and magic) away from everything she has known. She is told over and over that she is the savior of Ravka and will be able to destroy the Shadow Fold and unite the nation again, but the power in the wrong hands can be dangerous. Should she stay with the Darkling in the palace and take him for his word or should she leave and ensure her power won't be abused?
I didn't really know what to expect starting Shadow and Bone. When I started it, I was a little confused with all the Russian jargon and visualizing the world. I usually appreciate being thrown into the middle of a world and figuring it out as I went along, but this one was a little harder to get my head around. This all turned around when Alina discovered her power in the dark and sinister Shadow Fold. After a bit of a rocky start, I was completely immersed in this world and in awe of it just as much as Alina as she is thrown into an entirely different realm than she is used to. The palace offers physical comforts like she has never known, but the training (both combat and magical), the politics, and the two faced nature of the many of the people around her take a physical and mental toll on her. Her life had been so straight forward before and generally unremarkable that this new experience where people either want to kill her or worship her is a shock. It isn't all fun parties, good food, and people fawning over her. Life as the only Sun Summoner is hard when everyone expects you to save the country.
I really liked the characters in the story in particular. They all were realistic and fully realized. Alina's psychology fascinated me. She had no idea for years and years that she had this power because she suppressed it. All are tested as children for power and she successfully kept her power in check and did so for years afterwards, eventually without even knowing it was there anymore. This suppression had serious physical repercussions. She was perpetually tired, never really had an appetite, and was generally sickly. When she finally learned to harness her power and call it on her own, her health improved greatly. I really liked that her psychology had a huge effect on her physically and also the drastic difference in her after she accepted her power after denying it for so long.The Darkling, the most powerful Grisha, is frightening and attractive at the same time. His motives and emotions are never apparent and he keeps a lot of secrets. His real role in the plot isn't revealed until well into the novel. He is a fascinating character that I can't wait to see more of.
Shadow and Bone was a wonderful read that took me about a day because I needed to know what happened. I loved this Russian influenced world with its unique magic system and vibrant characters. I would have like a glossary in the back of the novel because I forgot the meanings of some of the Ravkan words, but it might be included in the finished book. I would recommend this to anyone tired of formulaic boring YA. I can't wait for the next book!
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins
**** Check out Leigh Bardugo's site where she has a glossary and pronunciation guide of Ravkan words, Ravkan inspired recipes, artful maps, and more! This book comes out June 5th. Check it out and pre-order here! ****