I've decided to just make a template to open my book reviews. It'll go something like this: So I saw this great review of _________ over at _________. I immediately requested the book from the library and it sat on my shelf until I could not renew it again, and then I read it and LOVED it. See how much time it'll save me for all of these great books? Maybe I should add an alternate line about Net Galley? ANYWAY.
So I saw this great review of Shadow and Bone over at ... you know what, I don't remember the one that made me request it! Amanda's review was the one that made me not return it unread, but I already had it checked out when hers went live... Enough! What about the book? Here's the summary:
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
Wow, that last bit makes it sound like a romance! And it has romance in it (of course) but at it's heart it's about Alina alone, and her awareness of herself. Alina has hidden her powers away so well that she has even hidden them from herself. She has to look into herself to figure out why she is the way she is- weak, plain, alone- in order to realize her full potential. And, it would be entirely too easy if she was left alone in a quiet room to reflect on her life, so she has to do this with the eyes of the nation on her and she has to make some heart wrenching decisions along the way.
What did I like about it? Oh, pretty much everything. I love Alina, and Mal, and the Darkling. I love Genya and even Baghra. I can't wait to see what the Apparat turns into (because, yes, this is the first in a trilogy.) I loved the ending, and that it doesn't end in an obvious set up for book two. Of course there will be a book two, but you could stop here and feel like the story is complete. I love that I didn't see the giant twist coming. At all. Like not even a tiny bit did I see that coming. I love the world and the way it feels like a real place (Russia, a few centuries ago) and the magic works in seamlessly. I like that there is awareness of magic dying with the birth of new technology and so this is, perhaps, plausible. I loved that it didn't feel like a knock off of any other book I've read.
Were there any weak parts? I didn't like that Alina never questions the age difference between herself and the Darkling. If you're considering a romance with someone, surely you'd think of that? I thought maybe it was a touch convenient that Mal was such a terrific tracker, but I wonder if maybe that'll be expanded more in the "everyone has a power" way later. Overall though, there wasn't much to dislike in this one.
My overall thoughts? I'm gonna have to read an awful lot of great books this year to knock this out of my 2013 Top Ten. One of the best books I've read in years.
If you're curious about the book, you can get the first five chapters for free here.
And absolutely don't miss this tumblr post, because of the beautiful quote and pictures. Oh, I want to read it again now!
Follow Leigh Bardugo on twitter.
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Visit the author's blog.
And the trailer is awfully lovely as well: