This is an "Ugly Duckling" coming of age book. Alina is an orphan. Her best friend and playmate doesn't see her beauty until she finds her "power" to call sunlight. (Yeah, it's a weird power, but it makes sense when you listen to the book.)
At first I was kicking myself because she was pining and whining for her orphan comrade who was looking elsewhere for love. I HATE jealousy and the angst that comes with it. Then she meets the mysterious "Darkling" and the plot thickens.
The ending is left open for a second book. If there isn't a second installment, it deserves only 4 stars because things are left unresolved.
I'm a corporate training consultant and adjunct professor who loves to read! I'm always looking for the next big thing.
In a land called Ravka, two orphans, Mal and Alina, are called to battle in a war; however, they are called in very different ways. Mal becomes a soldier, and Alina becomes a cartographer. Then, Alina discovers that she has powers that are unique in their world--she is a sun summoner. Because of her new powers, she leaves her post to train as a Grisha, which is a type of natural sorceress. In the book, many believe that her power will help to end the war.
I wanted to love this book, but I only barely liked it. First, let me get my biggest complaint out of the way. From the illustration on the book cover to the language used by the characters, there is an obviously heavy Russian influence in the land of Ravka. Unfortunately, that influence was terribly executed. Although the author uses some terms correctly (e.g., samovar), she invents other words or completely misuses them. There was absolutely no other Russian influence in the entire book. There was no reference to Russian culture, no reference to Russian mythology, and no reference to Russian folklore. It could be argued that, because Ravka is not Russia, these missing references should be overlooked. I cannot overlook them. If the author is going to try for a Russian feel, she should have been a bit more focused with her research. One example that made me somewhat crazy was the name of the main character, Alina Starkov. Although I can see the Russian influence in the name, would it have been so terrible to make the name Alina Starkova, which would have sounded far, far more authentic?
By the way, my complaint about the lack of a true Russian influence negatively influenced my opinion of the performance. I liked Lauren Fortgang for the most part; however, she was woefully prepared to read a book that had Russian words in it. Her pronunciation was bad. Fortunately, her accent was not. I liked the pseudo-Russian accent that she used, but she fumbled with the Russian words and the invented-Russian words.
My second complaint is with the love story aspect of the book. Why, oh why, do we need another bizarre, love-triangle story in which the heroine is (for a part of the book) torn between the boy she has loved her whole life and the bad-boy she has just met? I really feel as if this is another story that is capitalizing on the Twilight/Hunger Games trend. Don't get me wrong, I liked all of these books, but enough is enough. I have serious doubts about the future of all women if these characters represent their ideal models of relationships.
OK, now that I provided you with the complaints, I will confess that I liked the story. I didn't love it, but I liked it. If the love story could have been removed (and the pseudo-Russian corrected), it would have been great. The general concept of the Grishas was fascinating. I like the idea that these people are not really sorcerers or sorceresses; instead, they manipulate what already exists in nature. In fact, they don't refer to it is magic, but as the "small science," which seems to be a combination of magic and science. In addition, the world of Ravka is troubled, yet interesting. I would love to know more about the other people of that world.
In the end, I can say that this was an OK book. If you enjoy the love-story aspect of Twilight or the Hunger Games, you will definitely enjoy this book. If you can tolerate a bit more of it, you will enjoy the fantasy. The ending of the book was rather weak; however, I believe that there are more books to come in this series. We will see where things go in the second book!
Earlier this year I read Six of Crows and didn't expect to like it as much as I did. I was so impressed with the writing and world building that I knew I was going to eventually read Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy. My only regret is that I didn't read this sooner, because it actually blew me away.
First off, I read this in one sitting. Like, I moved from a chair to my bed, and that was the only task I did while reading this book. I just couldn't stop reading, and that's a feeling I haven't had with a first book of a series for a while.
Next, the Darkling. Do I really need to say more? Hello, perfect antihero. Seriously, morally grey villains are my weakness. I fell in love with him after chapter six, and stayed in love with him after he started pulling some shady stuff.
“Fine, make me your villain.”
Also, can we talk about how Leigh Bardugo writes some of the most powerful one-liners I've read in my life? I was blown away with a few in Six of Crows, but this book surpassed even those!
“The problem with wanting," he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, "is that it makes us weak.”
Goose bumps. Literally goose bumps everywhere. Leigh Bardugo is so much more talented than some of these over-hyped YA authors today. It just doesn't feel like she gets the credit she deserves, because her writing is seriously on another level. I can't tell you how much I regret not giving her books a try earlier, because this is a low-key masterpiece.
So enough of my fangirling, and let me tell you what this book is actually about. This story follows a map maker, Alina, who is in the King's first army. She has been an orphan all her life, but has grown up, and fallen in love, with her best friend, Mal, who is also in the King's first army. Everyone in this world is scared of the Fold, which was created a long time ago and is filled with darkness. Inside the Fold, there are winged beasts called Volcra, that will show no mercy to anyone. When Alina has no other option, she miraculously shows that she isn't an ordinary girl, but a Grisha, and saves Mal's life from a light she is able to produce to eliminate the darkness. The Darkling, and many others, take notice of this talent and whisk Alina away for proper Grisha training so she can be in the King's second army, which is comprised only of Grishas and lead by the Darkling himself.
Even though the Darkling is on a whole other level, the rest of the characters are phenomenal as well.
Alina is another strong female that I'm proud to read about. She does have the "I'm just an orphan, I didn't know I'm the most powerful girl in the world" trope, but it actually didn't bother me because she had such a good heart and witty personality. Her loneliness also struck a chord with me that was rather reminiscent, so, regardless of her shortcomings, it would have been hard for me not to like her.
Mal is also a fantastic, and selfless, character that I feel like I should love. Unfortunately, my heart has no room for anyone but the Darkling.
This book is unlike anything I've ever read. I absolutely loved it. And when Alina put on that freakin' black kefta it provoked so much unexpected emotional from me! Now, please excuse me while I binge read this entire series.
Hello, my name is Teresa and I'm an addict.
This book has an excellent world building and intriguing magic domain. My problem with the book is the infatuation that the main character has with both Mal and the Darkling. There was so much potential to the story, that her teenage fascination made this story disappointing and drag the middle of the story down. I thought at first I would have liked the heroine she seemed to be a bit feisty, but that ended up being a sham, she was just another forgettable girl, truthfully I can't even remember what her name was. Towards the end she did start to pull her head out and act better. With that said the book wasn't bad and the actual writing was good. But after reading the other books in this trilogy's reviews and realizing that her behavior only gets more pathetic in the romance departure I have decided to stop here. I have heard this narrator before and I wasn't that impressed with her in the past, but she did a better job in this book and I didn't mind her too much.
While I liked the world of the story, I think it would have been better told from an omniscient narrator's perspective because the main protagonist isn't particularly like able.
She makes a lot of mistakes but never seems to learn from them. She's suspicious of everyone EXCEPT the bad guys. It's like being inside the head of an acerbic, self obsessed kid, who spends the whole time complaining. An experience not worth repeating for the 2nd or 3rd book.
though it took me a lot longer than I would have liked, I'm glad I finally got to Shadow and Bone.
In some ways, its predictable - which is why it wasn't quite five stars for me. How many times have you read about the girl who seems plain, unexciting, and always in the background, but finds out that she's special - has some ability that makes her not just special, but EXTRA special? But you've read it a lot because it works. Sure you're not shocked, but it's enjoyable.
And that was really the only unoriginal thing about Shadow and Bone - at least for me. You've got a special, pampered class of magic born people called the grisha. As the story develops, we understand that this designation is way more complex than it initially appears. I loved that it wasn't obviously black and white, and I really liked the different common reactions to the grisha - ranging from worship to disdain.
There's all sorts of power struggles, between the magic and non-magic people, within the grisha themselves and also the ruling entities. The power struggles made Shadow and Bone really sophisticated for a young adult novel, even one in a fantasy world. It also allowed for some twists that I didn't see coming and really enjoyed.
I got so into the magic and conflicts - from personal squabbles to huge, country changing scale - that the characters almost seem unimportant. That's not the case of course, but I guess they didn't register for me in the way they would in a character driven story. I did like Alina, the main character and point of view for the story. But she could have been any orphan with a humble upbringing from my point of view. She's nice, humble, and has a youthful innocence that carries over to her love interests. She wants what right and even makes some pretty brave moves. But she didn't particularly make me FEEL.
You'd think that's a big deal, but it really wasn't. I still got totally invested in the story and I care a lot about some of the secondary characters. Based on the blurb and other reviews, I kind of expected the romance to be more dominant. I love a friend to lover's romance - and since Alina is in love with her childhood friend (from the very beginning) this definitely has a bit of that. But it gets all screwed up because (1) Malyen (childhood friend) doesn't seem to see Alina that way and (2) the Darkling comes in and sweeps Alina off her feet. The thing is, neither relationship ever felt real for me. One felt like a childhood crush that isn't reciprocated, the other felt suspicious. So it wasn't real romance for me. It was GOOD and FUN and definitely held my attention, but I wasn't swept away in the romance. *shrugs*
I'm particularly glad I listened to Shadow and Bone, since there were some names and places I probably would have stumbled over while reading - this has a Russian element - but Lauren Fortgang flowed over those parts so well. Plus she did a good job with all the voices and personalities - even the male voices really worked.
I'm glad I've finally entered the world of Shadow and Bone - and I'm really looking forward to listening to the next book!
Mostly YA Book Obsessed!
Fantasy isn’t my favorite genre (although I have come to like it more than I did before in the last few months) which is why this book has been sitting unread on my kindle for more than a year. Blogger fail! I’ve always wanted to read it, but it just kept getting pushed back. When I was looking through the ‘Top 10 of 2013′ posts at the end of last year, I saw this series on soooo many blogger’s lists. Honestly, I got sick of it and decided it was finally time for me to read it. Well listen to it anyway since I ended up buying the audiobook version. I definitely see why this series is such a favorite and it’s much deserved.
Alina and Mal were orphans who grew up together and now serve the Second Army. Although Alina has developed feelings for Mal, they’re just really good friends. When they come under attack one day and Mal is hurt, Alina unleashes a strong and mysterious power she wasn’t even aware she had. This power catches the attention of The Darkling who takes Alina away to train as a Grisha. Although Alina is supposed to be a savior for Ravka, she doesn’t feel like she fits in. She struggles during her lessons and can’t even call her power again. All she wants is to go back home and to see how Mal is. When Mal’s army duties bring him to Alina, their friendship is put to the test when new feelings get in the way. Soon, Alina discovers what the Darklings plans really are and she knows she can’t go through with it. With the help of Mal, they set off on a mission to save Alina’s life.
Although I liked the Darkling, he was dark and brooding and seductive and he had great chemistry with Alina, I’m gonna have to go with Team Mal on this one. I just felt like at the end of the day, if it were between Alina and power, I’m not sure what the Darkling would pick. I know Mal will always pick Alina. I’m such a huge sucker for the bad guys but in this case, the best friend won me over. Are you shocked? Because I sure as hell was! As much as I enjoyed Alina and the Darklings scenes, I liked the Alina and Mal scenes so much better. I’m excited and nervous to see how this ends!
The world that Bardugo created for us in Shadow and Bone is amazingly vivid! I was fascinated by the world of the Grisha’s. I don’t read many fantasy books so I do tend to struggle with them when I do. Especially the names. Other than the main characters (Alina, Mal and the Darkling), there are so many other smaller characters that still serve an important role and I would sometimes struggle place the characters with the names. Although it took a few tries I eventually learned all the names, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book at all. I have one teeny tiny silly (so silly) issue with this book (that also didn’t affect the rating). I’ve said in other reviews how I’ve read way too many books with really cheesy sex scenes and how some of these words make me cringe. One of my favorite cringe-worthy terms is ‘folds’ *cue shudders*. What does this have to do with Shadow and Bone? Well nothing…not really. You see, there’s this thing called The Shadow Fold that plays a pretty big role in the story. Most of the time, it’s referred to as ‘The Fold.’ I couldn’t help it, every time I would hear them say they were ‘entering The Fold’ I couldn’t help but let out a very immature giggle complete with a disturbing visual. I’ve been scarred for life by the damn folds!
Audiobook review: Although I’ve had this book for a looong time, I’m glad I ended up going with the audiobook. Lauren Fortgang nailed the tone of the story. She did the accents, characters and names to perfection! I love when I can tell which character is speaking. I always knew when Alina, Mal or the Darkling were talking. One of my audiobook pet peeves is when a YA book has a old-sounding narrator and was so happy that I could picture Alina with this narrator’s voice. I already heard the Siege and Storm audiobook (check out my review tomorrow!) and plan to continue the series on audiobook. If you’re like me and you’ve had these books on your TBR forever, the audiobook is a great option!
The narration was fantastic. I enjoyed the book up until the end. I thought it was a bit anti-climactic and didn't entice me to read the next one.
She played the main character very well. It was a very enthusiastic performance and I felt like she WAS the main character.
Shadow and Bone is one of the best Fantasy books I’ve read in a really long time! The dark, twisted, magical world that Leigh Bardugo created sucked me in from the very beginning, and I couldn’t get enough! At Leigh Bardugo’s signing, she spoke about the cover of Shadow and Bone…about how much she loves it and about how there are elements in the cover that are really significant to the story. I’ll have to admit that I was impatiently waiting for the moment that I would understand what these element meant while I was listening (yeah I read it by Audible) to Shadow and Bone, and now I’m super excited that I’m in the know! I’m pretty sure I squealed the moment I figured it out. Isn’t that just silly? I think I probably appreciated it even more because I already knew there was something significant about the cover before I even read the book.
The fantasy world that Leigh created is truly unique. It’s been a while since I’ve read a high fantasy book, and I forgot how much I truly enjoy them. And Leigh made it especially enjoyable because every moment while reading I had no idea what to expect, and that is what made reading Shadow and Bone so fun.
As for the characters, Alina was the perfect female protagonist. I loved watching her grow and I understood and respected her actions throughout the story. As for the dudes, I was a fan of The Darkling throughout most of the story, but I’m now actually a huge fan of Mal!
Overall, the story was amazing, the world was awesome, and the characters were very well developed…AND I’m now dying to get my hands on Siege and Storm.
I like to think of myself as open-minded; even when I do particularly care for a book I give it the benefit of the doubt and reason that it's just my cup of tea. Rarely do I outright hate a book.
With that in mind, I hated, hated, hated, hated, absolutely hated Shadow and Bone! I hated everything about it! And for the life of me I cannot figure why the author is trumpeted as the next big thing, or how this book in innovative by any stretch of the imagination!
Let's start with the characters. First Alana Starkov (technically ought to have been Starkova, but I doubt the author so much as touched a Russian to English dictionary). Good Ford, what a whiny, self-centered little...I probably shouldn't curse. I'm sorry, but she can't think one sentence, on measly little sentence without whining about her imperfections, or gushing about her beloved Mal, or generally not giving a damn about anyone but her own selfish needs. Actually, no, she was perfectly willing to toss away her talents to be with her beloved Mal. Bottom Line: Alana Starkov = Mary Sue
Now, Mal and the Darkling. Mal is completely one demential with not personality beyond being Alana's perfect love interest. The Darkling, on the other hand, is a not to subtle Edward Cullen knockoff; all dark, brooding and boarder line abusive to Alana (and yet she loves him so).
The rest of the characters were waaaaay more interesting than the core three; why the hell wasn't this story about them?! So, as for world building, we have Ravka, a serial numbers filed off version of 18th century Russia; boarder end by totally isn't Scandanavia, and couldn't possibly be China (who eats their wizards and make instruments of their bones). Again, the lack of research is apparent in such instances as a character getting drunk...on children's beer, and the butchering of the Russian language.
The authors has explain all sorts of fascinating world building facts in interviews, yet seems to have forgotten to include them within the context of the novel itself. Bottom Line: World Building = thin as rice paper.
What really irks me isn't the cultural appropriation, the horrible messages and morals, or the cardboard characters. No, what really gets me is that the author seems to posses genuine talent and ability, but squanders it with romantic plot tumors, YA cliches, and pandering to love-sick fourteen year olds; all the the detriment of the novel.
If that were the end of it; I would still dislike, but not hate this novel. What pushes me over is how anyone could call this bold, innovative, well written, or possibly award worthy!
Bottom Line: don't waste your time. If you want so good fantasy in a none standard setting checkout Saladin Ahmed's The Throne of the Crescent Moon, instead. You'll be glad you did.