In Shadow and Bone, Alina Starkov is just a poor orphan, working as a map maker with her best friend in a regiment, when the regiment is attacked by massive flesh-eating vultures. Before she knows it, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves her friend’s life, and brings her to the attention of the Capital.
Taken from Mal, and everything else she knows and loves, Alina is taken to the Grisha, the magical elite that hold pretty much all the power in Ravka. There, she is flung into a world of glittering jewels and clothes, lies and deceit, as she struggles to harness this unknown power that she now has.
The Darkling, the leader of the Grisha, is there to help Alina along…or is he?
Ok so that was a horrible plot summary. But I’m having a hard time describing the convoluted and highly fantastical world of this book, since there are elements that I didn’t understand.
But I don’t blame the book for that at all since I read this in spurts, while on vacation; sometimes on the road through wild mountains, sometimes at the end of a very long day of casting spells, and sometimes while melting on a hot beach. Therefore, my judgement on this book is not entirely fair, since I wasn’t always paying attention, but I figured I’d review it anyway.
The thing that enchanted me about Shadow and Bone the most was the world. Even though I was sometimes confused by the class structure and the inner workings of Ravka (although this can be blamed on a general feeling of tiredness), I still really enjoyed reading about it. It was nothing like anything I had read before (or recently), and I was constantly being surprised by the way the Grisha operated and how Alina’s power manifested itself.
Alina isn’t a bad protagonist either. She’s full of wonder and curiosity at this new world that she’s never experienced, and keeps trying to keep apace of it. But she is also terribly naive about this new world and this naivety gets her in trouble.
The Darkling is definitely a very interesting character, and from the very beginning of the story it’s clear that he isn’t as charming and sweet as he appears to Alina. Alina knows of the awful murders he’s committed, but still keeps trusting him regardless. And herein lies her downfall.
While I immensely enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first half (I finally got into it), I was still disappointed in the way things wrapped up. Alina’s best friend, who hasn’t been a major character for most of the book, turns up and claims her heart in a second, even though she hasn’t spared him a thought throughout the whole book. This was weird.
Like all other YA books out there right now, this one is also poised for a sequel (and possibly is part of a trilogy- surprise!), which is what the unfinished ending seems to indicate.
Despite the rough start and weak character development, I’ll still give the next book in this series a shot, and hope that I’ll be more coherent when I do so.
Thanks for reading,
Also, big thanks to Natalie at Browsing Bookshelves for sending me a copy of this!