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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.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.

310 pages, Paperback

First published June 5, 2012

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About the author

Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Ninth House and the creator of the Grishaverse (now a Netflix original series) which spans the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, the King of Scars duology—and much more. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. She lives in Los Angeles and is an associate fellow of Pauli Murray College at Yale University. For information on new releases and appearances, sign up for her newsletter.

She would be delighted if you visited her at LeighBardugo.com and fairly giddy if you liked her selfies on Instagram.

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Profile Image for Sofia.
294 reviews5,929 followers
July 25, 2021
Why Mal the Malfunction is the Worst Love Interest Ever: An Essay


This will be long.
Very long.
Also: MILD SPOILERS for Siege and Storm and Shadow and Bone.



EDIT: The reason I'm writing this review and not Why the Darkling is the Worst Love Interest Ever is because
A. He's the villain. He's supposed to be the worst. That's kind of the point.
B. Mal is supposed to be the hero, but he's so toxic and awful and I don't like how he's portrayed as some ideal man.
C. The Darkling was never really a love interest.




1. He’s a possessive piece of trash


“Do you? That night at the palace when I saw you on that stage with him, you looked so happy. Like you belonged with him. I can’t get that picture out of my head.”

“I was happy,” I admitted. “In that moment, I was happy. I’m not like you, Mal. I never really fit in the way that you did. I never really belonged anywhere.”

“You belonged with me,” he said quietly.



Oooo boy. *deep breaths* I’m already raging mad and I haven’t even started yet.

Let’s address the problems in this segment.

“I was happy.”


Alina was happy with the Darkling. She felt like she belonged. But no, Mal says that Alina only belongs with him, because obviously that’s healthy and not at all problematic.


“I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me we don’t belong together,” he said fiercely. He was very close now, and my heart was suddenly hammering in my chest. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”



Can I please just cease to exist?

“So don’t tell me we don’t belong together.”


He kisses her right after this, by the way.

I’m extremely mad at this paragraph for multiple reasons. One, he doesn’t give Alina a chance to say whether or not she feels the same way. He just assumes that she likes him since he likes her, and he makes the statement that they belong together without actually asking Alina how she feels.


I’m going to skip the part where Mal says he never wants to see her wearing black again (the Darkling’s colors), because that’s just so disgusting and problematic and I honestly don’t have time to digest that right now.


This is just the first book, folks.

I'm already tired.


2. He makes decisions for her


Towards the beginning of the second book, Nikolai proposes a political marriage between himself and Alina. He acknowledges that it wouldn’t be a love match, but he knows it’s a smart move, so he waits for Alina’s response.

Mal never gives her the chance to respond. He physically attacks Nikolai and proceeds to say:

“You don’t have a right to her.”


Oh, so you do? You, Malyen Oretsev, have more of a “right” to Alina than Nikolai does? The logic here is nonexistent.

Alina tries to calm them down in a rare moment of non-stupidity, but Mal refuses, again, to let her decide for herself, and just assumes that she wouldn’t accept. She’s very hurt by this, understandably.

“I don’t need to think about it,” Mal shouted. “And neither does she. It isn’t going to happen.”


Again. Let her make her own decisions. She has a brain, even if it’s not a very large one, and she doesn’t need you to decide for her.



3. He has double standards and is emotionally manipulative


REMEMBER THAT TIME HE KISSED ZOYA?

*uncontrolled laughter* AND THEN HAD THE AUDACITY TO SAY IT WAS ALINA’S FAULT?


THE SAME GUY WHO WOULDN’T EVEN LET ALINA HAVE MALE FRIENDS?

“At least she doesn’t flinch when I touch her,” he spat. “You don’t want me, so why do you care if she does?”


AGAIN, she didn’t flinch because she didn’t want you. She flinched because she literally saw an apparition of the Darkling. And now you’re making out with her enemy just to spite her when she did nothing wrong.

And he threatens to break up with Alina every time she as much as LOOKS at another man with anything other than hatred.



4. He dislikes the fact that she is more powerful than he is


*coughs* *flips Siege and Storm to page 159* Observe.

“But when all this is over, Alina, I wonder if you’ll still want me.”


And then he walks out. He just walks out of the room.

*anger intensifies*

He does this SO. MUCH. Like every other page. Every interaction with Alina, he’s constantly moaning about how “she doesn’t want me” because “she has powers” and “I’m useless.”

Do you want her to be weak and rely on you?
Is that it?

(Actually, that is it.)

Mal is noticeably happier when Alina is weak and not in her power, because then she relies on him. And he’s unhappy when she’s strong and self-confident.

He’s not letting Alina have her own dreams and ambitions and motivations. He’s constantly making her stressed and depressed by questioning her love for him and saying that because she’s trying to help Ravka, that means she automatically has no time for him.

She’s trying to save an entire country.
Calm down.
No one cares about you.

On the contrary, Nikolai encourages Alina to try harder, to be her better self. And he’s not afraid of letting her go. He values her as a free person, unlike Mal.

Another quote:

He let out a bitter bark of laughter. “Do you know how much I want that? To be with you without rank or walls or anything between us? Just to be common again together?” He shook his head. “But you won’t do it, Alina.”


He wants to be common again.
Together.
He wants Alina to forsake her powers.
To give up Ravka and just live with him and bE A STUPID PEASANT IN THE COUNTRYSIDE WITH NO RESPONSIBILITY JUST BECAUSE HE WANTS THAT.

"I wasn’t afraid of you, Alina. I was afraid of losing you. The girl you were becoming didn’t need me anymore, but she’s who you were always meant to be.”


Nononono wait a second-
*crying*
*crying abruptly stops*

Okay, I’m good.
I find this extremely hilarious and extremely sad at the same time.

He doesn’t like Alina with powers because she’s confident, strong, and brave.
He likes weak, insecure Alina better because that version of Alina made him feel like a big, tough man.

He’s continually insecure that Alina will leave him simply because she doesn’t need him. He doesn’t want her to become a more independent, strong person.




5. He shows signs of potentially becoming physically abusive


Mal has a problem with “curling his fingers into fists” whenever Alina shows ANY sign of not wanting to make out right at that moment. And then he assumes she’s thinking about another guy.

And then, after that, he doesn’t give her any chance to explain.

I’m so done with this.

He shows every sign of becoming physically abusive. The fists, the possessiveness, the jealousy.

There’s this one line that I couldn’t find in the book that was a perfect example. He kisses her, she stiffens noticeably because she literally has a hallucination of the Darkling standing behind him. He assumes she doesn’t love him anymore and storms out with his hands curled into fists.

You have to give her some space.

The problem with Mal is that he constantly decides that HE knows better. He knows everything Alina is thinking. He can make decisions for her. And then he makes her feel like trash and leaves it all up to her to “fix” their relationship. Which he broke, by the way, by not letting her speak and just assuming he knew what she meant.



6. He doesn’t allow her to have male friends


I’m going to share a quote with you that actually made me laugh out loud:

Mal shook his head in disgust. “I let him push me away. The meetings, the council sessions, the dinners. I let him edge me out. Just waiting, hoping that you’d miss me enough to tell them all to go to hell.”


*wheezing* So he’s saying that Alina can’t have male friends? That she actually has to tell Nikolai to go to hell just because Mal is so jealous that he can’t stomach the idea of Alina having a life?

I should stop laughing and start crying.

I’m not going to paste the infamous flinching quote in here again, but the same points apply. He assumed that Alina was thinking about another guy, and instead of asking her if she was, he gets angry and guilt-trips her, making her think it’s all her fault.

I believe this is called gaslighting.




TL;DR, Mal is a needy, insecure, jealous, possessive, toxic, abusive excuse for a human being.


Me @ Mal:

Trash Opinion GIF - Trash Opinion SplishSplash - Discover & Share GIFs


______


1. Mal. Please die.
2. Alina just doomed the whole Ravka because she was too busy professing her love to Mal and wouldn't kill a stupid deer.


I believe there is one fundamental problem with Shadow and Bone. Actually, that's not true. There are many, many problems, but one irked me the most (I'm not counting Mal, my mortal enemy).


You can't count on me to root for the "good guys" just because I'm supposed to. I will come into a book with absolutely no opinions whatsoever (excluding The Cruel Prince, which I was in love with before I even started) and form my own idea as to which side I should like more. The Darkling was just so much better than Mal and Alina. And I don't even like the Darkling. He's an annoying jerk with no clear motive and I kind of hate him, but guess what? I hate Alina and Mal even more. Fun times.


Sometimes I feel like authors expect me to side with the morally good people as a principle, but I don't care if you're a good person or not. I just want you to be somewhat interesting. Mal and Alina were as interesting as this piece of white bread:


Who Made That Sliced Bread? - The New York Times


Only I would rather spend a day with a slice of bread than with Malyen Oretsev.


This book suffers from a serious case of not like other girls™. Alina Starkov(a) is the only female character in this entire novel that isn't a gossipy, appearance-obsessed, "shallow" person, but she's more shallow than all of them because she's bringing them down while putting herself up, and that makes me automatically hate her.


Take Zoya, for example, who had the potential for an awesome redemption arc but instead tried to kill Alina for having stronger powers. Because ✨logic.✨ The characters all fit into traditional roles:

Mal: The love interest who would do anything for the protagonist
Alina: The speshul protagonist with speshul powers who has a destiny she never dreamed of
Zoya: The mean girl who exists only to make life a living hell for the protagonist
The Darkling: Basically Kylo Ren, but worse


Alina is the definition of a Mary Sue. She starts off incompetent and idiotic, and ends the book suddenly a goddess and idiotic. I guess it was too much to ask for character development.



Moving on to Mal, who may be The Worst Character Of All Time for the reasons listed below.


1. He's a jealous jerk.
I'm thinking of that time when he threatened to break off his friendship with Alina because he thought she was in a relationship with the Darkling. Learn what the word "no" means, you insufferable moldy waffle. And he's supposed to be "noble." Look up feminism and only come back here when you've written a 10-page essay on why you are a terrible person.


2. He uses Alina for his own wants.
He constantly complains about how "she's different" since she got powers and he's "worried that she doesn't love me anymore." *sigh* There is so much that's wrong with... *gestures vaguely* you. First of all, stop moping because "she might not love" you. Hasn't she sacrificed everything for you? Just because she wants to fight for the good of all Ravka doesn't mean you have the right to be a jerk about that because you want more time with her. In case you didn't already know, Alina is a person too and has stuff she needs to get done. You're just making things worse, you clingy spoiled octopus.



Anyway, this was terrible. It's basically all the YA tropes shoved into a bowl and halfheartedly mixed for a few seconds.


1.5 stars, because I laughed during all the dark moments
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,588 reviews153k followers
December 9, 2020
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Latest BookTube Video is up - a totally serious take on writing Young Adult Lit!
The Actual Review
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IT WAS A COMPLETE DISASTER.
Whelp...that was horribly disappointing...

I cannot begin to explain how utterly...blah this one was.

SO many people recommended it, and I honestly feel a bit awful with the low rating - but ehhh, what's the point of goodreads if I can't rant?

How to Write a Hit YA Novel 101

(In 5 easy steps!)

1. Make your main character ugly
“She’s an ugly little thing. No child should look like that.”
Like realllllllly ugly.
Pale and sour, like a glass of milk that’s turned.
And she must be skinny, but in the malnourished-and-kinda-hot sort of way.

AND REMEMBER
- she can never be so ugly that the Generic Love Interest(s) aren't attracted to her!
I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.
Your Main Character must be ugly enough so that all the little children reading your novels can relate, but not so ugly that Hollywood casts a troll to play her in the movie adaption.

2. Make her humble
“Well, I don’t want to be high above all others.”
Your Main Character has to come from the sticks, she has to have survived poverty and hardship.

We really want that sympathy coming. She's ugly, alone in the world and she sucks at everything. Make her clumsy, naive and outright stupid.

So humble that when she's given clean clothes that her eyes well up in tears. At one point, your are legally obligated to give her an Oscar-worthy gown for some made up and utterly unimportant reason.

No matter how successful your Main Character is, you MUST make sure she is ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE with her success.

Tears are acceptable, outright bawling every two pages is preferred.
“A thousand girls would sell their own mothers to be in your shoes, and yet here you are, miserable and sulking like a child. So tell me, girl. What is your sad little heart pining for?”
It's probably best to off one of her parents - scratch that - make her an orphan.

An unlovable orphan.

Perfect.

Now bring in the two hot guys. Let's make a love triangle.

3. The Love Triangle
Thanks for being my best friend and making my life bearable. Oh, and sorry I fell in love with you for a while there.
So. Now that she's an ugly, unlovable orphan, what does she need in her life? A LOVE TRIANGLE!

A few notes here:

While it is completely okay and acceptable for your Main Character to be ugly-skinny, both males MUST be strapping fine specimens of their species. Ripped and buff. No skinny-minnies allowed.

Option A (our homespun hero) has to be tall, broad shouldered, tanned and have an easy-going nature.

While Option A is allowed to pine for Main Character, the two of them must NEVER EVER mutually like each other at the same time. If they do, there will be consequences.

Option B (our tall-dark-and-handsome) has to fit the description. He may be pale, but in a luminous way (NEVER in a spends-too-much-time-behind-a-computer sort of way).

In addition, Option B MUST display at least four of the following traits: Sullen, Argumentative, Controlling, Dominating, Sexually Aggressive, Outright Abusive, and Murderous (but in a hot way).

(As you can see, we are setting sweet and stable Option A up for failure. The key is to always steer your vulnerable orphan towards the "spicier" Option B.)

NOTE: If the supernatural love interest isn't older than your Main Character by at least 100 years, it is creepy.
“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina,” he said. “You and I are going to change the world.”
4. Good VS Evil

Now, remember, your audience is around 12-17 so it's best to make the plot fresh, engaging and exciting.

I'd recommend with Generic Good Vs Generic Evil.

And, to add just a pinch of spice, let's make everyone good: White and everyone evil: Black.

And, to make it even spicier (and less racist), let's go with Light Vs Shadows. Fabulous. Much more PC.

Now, where in the world would your Main Character be without a super-cool secret weapon.

Since she can directly control light, let's go with the obvious.
With a flick of the wrist, I could slide a mirror between my fingers and... I practiced bouncing flashes of light off them and into my opponent’s eyes.
Mirrored gloves - after all, you want the element of surprise, and there's no way someone beaming you in the eyes with light stronger than the sun will surprise anyone. Hence the gloves.

You may have a few "twists" and "turns" scattered about, especially when it comes to love interests:
“Why would you care what I think?”
He looked genuinely baffled. “I don’t know,” he said...And then he kissed me.
- The key is to keep the audience on the tips of their toes.

Is Option B trying to kill her? Or does he just love her so much that it hurts? (Only the fifth book of your ten-part series will begin to unravel that little secret).

5. Vaguely Inspirational Sentences

An oft overlooked and essential aspect to writing a YA novel is the inspirational factor.

Before you get too intimidated - don't worry!

None of these actually have to mean something, they just have to sound like they could mean something, maybe.

Your young and impressionable target audience won't get it either way!
He had seen a woman, barefoot and unflinching in her doorway, face down a row of bayonets. He knew the look of a man defending his home with nothing but a rock in his hand.
Female empowerment is SUPER in right now. Your humbly ugly and clumsily skinny Main Character NEEDS to be spunky, strong and a real "go-getter."

Make sure she has derisive thoughts towards being girly and waiting for a man to save her.
Put on your pretty clothes and wait for the next kiss, the next kind word. Wait for the stag. Wait for the collar. Wait to be made into a murderer and a slave.
She ain't no damsel in distress! (expect, of course, if either Option A OR Option B are inclined to save her from a cute-but-clumsy moment! Teehee! )

Don't forget to throw in the self-doubt and self-loathing! You can never let your audience forget how naive and childlike your Main Character is!

She must NEVER be happy in ANY situation. She must HATE herself and EVERYTHING she stands for!!
Maybe I would wake tomorrow and find that it had all been a dream,
But, most importantly, you MUST (and I repeat MUST) show that the Main Character is willing to kill herself over the vaguely worded Light Vs Shadow plot point.

Think of the target audience! Impressionable twelve to seventeen-year-olds love it when their heroes are willing to kill sacrifice themselves for the greater good - suicide with a purpose, that's our motto.
It was time to let go. That day on the Shadow Fold, Mal had saved my life, and I had saved his. Maybe that was meant to be the end of us.
If she's not willing to suicide over some slight, is your book even worth reading?

Concluding Remarks

Thank you so much for joining us on How to Write a Hit YA Novel 101 .

We hope your bumbling-fool-ugly-humble-orphan (but in a hot way) Main Character is ready to journey out into the wilderness - where she spends months at a time camping in the woods without ever peeing, farting or having her period in front of the hot guy.

She does not have bodily functions, she is too busy weeping unshed tears over her dead parents and/or the poverty-stricken horrors she has witnessed.

And remember - don't forget to cuddle for warmth!

Annnd here's another booktube video!
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Psst. A new video is up - all about the bad books I've read this year!

Now that you know that this one is on it, check out the Worst Books of 2019 video to see what other ones made the cut!


YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
June 6, 2021
Seeing a lot of traffic here, even though this review is almost 10 years old. Like everyone, I've watched the show, and I think it's twice better than this sad, mediocre book. Mixing up Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows was a stroke of genius to be sure. The cast was all marvelous (especially Jesper), Mal was surprisingly attractive, as was Darkling. Color me surprised.

I was hoping for some non-sensical Russian-like grammatical mistakes would be corrected, but nah, male Morozova, otkazat'sya were all there. Although nobody was getting drunk on kvas at least, or did I miss it?

I'll definitely watch the next season.
_____
2.5 stars

It is alright, if you are into fantasy lite. I, on the other hand, am a little weary of this lightish, breezy and superficial entertainment. Give me something juicier, something more thoughtful, something more sophisticated.

Shadow and Bone is a decent book. Bardugo's writing style is easy and engaging. The plot is developed enough to masquerade the fact that the biggest chunk of it is the usual boarding school fare with makeovers, mean girl drama, petty rivalries, balls and a bit of steamy(ish) romance with the hottest guy on the block. Bardugo even succeeds at creating an "exotic" backdrop for her story - an early 20th century Russia-inspired fantasy land of Ravka. Even with my issues concerning the accuracy of everything borrowed from Russian culture, I will still say that the author manages to create a very distinct atmosphere in her novel. And speaking of this atmosphere, Russian "flavor" if you will, Shadow and Bone is a rare book whose covers (both US and UK) reflect the novel's mood well, even though I find UK's tagline to be a bit misleading and melodramatic. This novel is not as romancey as the line "A dark heart. A pure soul. A love that will last forever" would imply.



With that said, the reason I did not enjoy this book the way I had hoped I would is that it is just so uncomplicated and straight-forward. I have no usual complaints about Bardugo's characters and the plot. But they are familiar and well used and not very rich. These characters are simple, void of complex emotions and motivations. Same goes for the plot and conflicts. There is no complexity to them either. The conflicts are of good/evil variety. The plot is easily predictable. Twists? What twists?

I do not think Shadow and Bone is a good fit for many adult readers, unless they are in a search for going-through-the-motions sort of story with a standard "kick-ass" protagonist (I am thinking Tris from Divergent or Ismae from Grave Mercy), and they do not expect to be challenged intellectually or emotionally.

Now, to the part of my review that will reflect exclusively my personal problems with this book, which will not bother 99.9% of its potential readers.

Shadow and Bone is, as I mentioned earlier, a Russia-inspired fantasy. I took pains to check out Leigh Bardugo's website, to see how exactly she addressed this inspiration. Here are her words: "Ravka and its language were heavily inspired by Russia, but with a few deliberate exceptions, the words and place names in Shadow & Bone are my own invention. My goal was to keep things simple and to make sure that Ravkan words still had resonance for readers. In short, I took a lot of liberties and I hope the purists won’t beat me about the head and shoulders."

Sure, I do not want to be a language nazi or anything. I can skim over Russian-sounding made-up words, even though they linguistically do not make much sense. Not every writer can be like Catherynne M. Valente, who embraced Russianness so fully in her Deathless, that I had to do some research to find out if she was Russian herself (she is not). But is it too much to ask of an author to at least google the actual Russian words she does use in her work? I swear, it would only take 10 minutes to research the glaring mistakes I found.

For instance, if you want to give your characters Russian names, it is not that hard to find out that men and women in Russia have different variations of the same last name? Let's take the book's main character, Alina Starkov. Starkov is a masculine version of the last name. Correctly, it should be Alina Starkova. In the same way, there is another character, whose name is Ilya Morozova. The problem with this name is that Ilya is actually a male name, while the last name has a female form. In the book, Ilya Morozova is a "she." If you google "Russian last names," this information comes up in the second or third link from the top. How much time would it take to do this research?

Then there is a matter of "kvas," a beverage everyone seems to get drunk on in Shadow and Bone. In reality, you can not actually get drunk consuming it. This is a non-alcoholic beverage (well, almost, it occasionally has alcohol content up to 1%) which is given to children as well as adults, like, let's say, soda. Wiki this word, I am not lying. You want to write about alcohol, use "pivo" or "braga" or "samogon," if researching that is too hard, use "vodka."

And, I swear, the last example (of many on my list). The name of this trilogy - The Grisha (in the book, the Grisha are magic wielding army). Grisha is actually a short form of the male name Grigori. Come on now, no better ideas, no better words to call your magicians other than this random personal name? Or "otkazat'sya," which in Bardugo's interpretation means "The Abandoned." In reality "otkazat'sya" is a verb which translates into "to refuse." That is why I am saying that even the words made up by the author make no sense, linguistically.

To be sure, all these things will not bother anyone except select few, but I do not think it is too wrong to expect the author who builds her whole magical universe using Russian culture, to respect this culture enough to do a cursory google search, to give her work some appearance of credibility and care? This sloppy use of a foreign (my) culture affected my enjoyment of the novel.

Shadow and Bone is not an isolated example of a lazy handling of Russian language and culture, and very often I feel very much compelled to offer authors, who choose to base their stories on Russia, my help, to at least check the spelling of the words. But then I see that they do not care to do the most basic of researches, so why should I care?

To wrap this up, I do not recommend against reading Shadow and Bone. It is a light and engaging enough entertainment. In fact, after reading a few Goodreads reviews, it looks like many people found it to be utterly enchanting. I am glad they do. I, however, will not be back for more.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
714 reviews11.3k followers
April 21, 2020
The biggest issue with this book is actually NOT the utter fail at correctly incorporating the Russian elements into the story.

It's that I'd never be able to pick this book out of a generic YA book lineup.



It's like a ninja, perfectly blending into its surroundings, into that painfully generic landscape that plagues YA literature recently, the lackluster background against which few gems truly stand out. And gem this one is not.

I think at this point there is a formula that many YA writers view as foolproof, and that's what we have got working here. First of all, the story has to be told in the first person by a young female protagonist.¹ And so here we have a teenage girl who thinks of herself as unremarkable and plain² but at least she has the three winning S's - she's smart and sarcastic and sassy!³
¹ Why does it seem that almost every YA story nowadays features the first-person narrative by a teenage girl? Is that a new law?

² We know she is plain because she has the ugliness-defining brown hair, a YA prerequisite for plainness. Also, she is too skinny, which apparently is a common YA flaw.


Skinny brown-haired women, ladies and gentlemen. The ugliness is overpowering, right?

³ Or, actually, that's what we're *supposed* to think. What she comes across is the OTHER S's: sullen, sulky and self-absorbed. She is also a bit stupid¹. Oh, and also specially-equipped-to-see-negatives-in-every-situation-including-perfectly-happy-times. Seriously, coming from poverty and harsh military life, she still finds the will to complain about a horrible horrible day in what amounts to the Dreamland of this kingdom because people were soooooo meeeeeeeeeaaaaaaan to her, woe!
¹ Case in point for stupidity - you don't mouth off to the second most powerful person in the kingdom who you believe is capable of evil. You just don't. It does not come across as sassy but as stupid.
Anyway, then she finds a super-special snowlake-unique power that apparently no one realized she had, and eventually becomes all pretty and desirable and stuff. And lands herself in a boarding school/king's court full of mean girls¹ and even has several makeovers! Along the way, she unexpectedly becomes a fighting badass! And then there are two hot boys² swooning over her!
¹ Why is it that most pretty girls in books like these always have to be evil to the plain-Jane protagonist? Why do women writing about women tend to vilify women? (Yes, I loved writing the word 'women' three times in that short sentence.) I know, I know, there is Genya who is nice, but all other pretty women are eeeeevillll or stupid.

² Well, in all honesty, one of them could make centenarians look like children.
At some point, she inevitably makes a requisite decision about self-sacrifice for a noble cause, if needed. There are declarations of undying love. She also makes big and stupid decisions for the sake of loooooovvvvvvvveeeeeeeee.

Sounds pretty generic, doesn't it? Yes, it does. But the attempt at drawing inspiration from Russian culture could have set it apart from the other generic stories for the largely Western-centric crowd.


See, adding some Russianness is supposed to make your story infinitely cooler, right?

But alas, that did not happen. If not for occasionally thrown in exotic-sounding (to a Westerner) Russian names for people and objects (add a samovar to a story and occasionally call your king a tsar for your ethnic flavor!), you would really not be able to tell where this story is supposed to take place. I guess the real country where it's set is the faceless characterless dystopic YA-landia with the traditional settings, stock responses, and common conventions.
============================


But since I read this book for its butchered (and really inconsequential) Russianness¹, I will spend some more time discussing it. (Tatiana, by the way, has written an excellent review touching on this subject.)
¹Speaking of getting so many Russian things wrong. Well, first of all, why do we even care? Well, the reasons are twofold and both stem from the fact that Russia is the biggest country on the planet, which means that:

(a) It should be pretty easy to find information about its culture and language, including a native Russian speaker beta-reader, perhaps.

(b) There are quite a few people in this world that will be easily able to spot out what you did wrong.

Also, don't give me BS about the country of Ravka not being Russia but simply being inspired by it. Bullshit. You use Russian names and Russian words in your book - therefore I will assume that Russian is indeed the language you are using. End of story.
The titular 'Grisha' is still what makes me cringe. Every. Single. Time. It is a diminutive of a Russian name Grigori, and roughly equivalent to English 'Greg'. Just imagine you reading a story where the elite yielding mysterious powers is collectively known as 'Mike' or 'Bob' or 'Billy'. Do I need to say more?

..............................
Grigori Rasputin. His mom probably called him Grisha.

Since Alina is a woman, her last name should be a feminine version of Starkov. Basically, her last name is Starkova.¹
¹My original thought that maybe in this world Russians just stopped distinguishing between feminine and masculine last names was proven wrong when there was a mention of the character who does possess a feminine name - Morozova². Therefore I must conclude that the distinction is preserved in Ravka.

²Interestingly, the character with the feminine last name Morozova has a masculine first name - Ilya. So either this world is flip-flopped in that way, or Bardugo could not bring herself to do a simple google search of name Ilya to see where it was a boy or a girl. It is NEVER a female name, despite ending in a vowel (just like Nikita is only a male name, by the way). It's particularly annoying because a 10-second google search could have spared this mistake; no knowledge of Russian culture is even necessary here!
'Otkazat'sya' really does NOT mean 'abandoned'. It means 'to refuse'. It's a verb and should not be used as a noun. A 5-second Google translate search gives me a better version than Bardugo came up with.

KVAS. OH MY GOD, KVAS. Dear Alina, a boy who groped you while drunk on kvas does not have an excuse of drunkenness, after all. Kvas is a fermented drink containing less than 1% alcohol. You'd have to drink a barrel of it to be drunk, after which you'd be too busy peeing nonstop rather than groping girls. For crying out loud, my mom let me drink it when I was a toddler. Getting drunk on kvas is like suggesting that people get drunk on Seven-Up. Therefore comparing champagne and kvas is like comparing oranges to chalk or monkeys to cactus.


Same kid after 10 years of kvas drinking. Dangerous drink, I say, dangerous!

Now, there were good things about this book, too, don't get me wrong. It was a very easy read in a relatively decent prose. It flowed well (but so did Twilight, after all). The love triangle died in utero. There was an actual plot and not just lovesick gazing. The love interest was actually a rather decent guy who is not tortured by his dark past.

But there was NOTHING about this story that allowed it to stand out even a little bit out of the uniform landscape of similar books. Nothing except the little frustrations with the misused Russian inspiration. I guess you'd like it if you're looking for another book that's "just like" a fantastical book with a young heroine and a love story that you read and loved. If you're looking for any originality, it's not there. Therefore I award it the lackluster 2 stars.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
March 22, 2021
(If you think I’m not still watching the television show you are WRONG. Eyes on Six of Crows, babes.)

2 1/2 stars, but I have literally no clue at all how to rate this, because it is all over the place. The first half was actually terrible [like, awful] but the second half was Really Cool and I don't know how to reconcile these two emotions? But also I have like. fifteen books marked review to come. So let's go.

→ worldbuilding I pretend to care about ←
[I just… really don’t care about worldbuilding. Is the worldbuilding in this book good? Who fucking knows. This is not my division.]
Honestly, I think the concept of this book is a little 2010 Harry-Potter-ripoff. You know those books with the ten camps? The twelve districts? The seven pies that my grandma used to make? You know what I mean. In all seriousness, I think this world [especially having read SoC] has a lot of potential for political intrigue , but I don’t yet know to what degree this series will go there. I hope it goes there. I hope everything is morally ambiguous as hell. I’m here for it.

→ plot and all that crap ←
The first 2/3 of this book is so boring and I will never forgive it for that. Alina goes to school. She trains! The beginning of the book - you know, the thing that we know happens from the blurb? - takes two hours into the audiobook. There is very little rising action [if we’re going to be all literary about it]. It is overall a mess. Until the end. AND THEN THE END GETS COOL AND ACTION-PACKED. Okay, I have more written in this review about how freaking badass the ending is, but a lot of shit goes down and a lot of reveals get dropped and I did not expect any of them.

→ cliches and tropes ←
Oh my god. I hate saying this about Leigh fucking Bardugo, queen of subverting everything, but the beginning of this book… was so tropey. Our main character. Not very pretty. In love with her best friend. Every girl in sight is attracted to him. He is everyone’s type. And then she meets the Darkling. He broods! She was always beautiful underneath. But she’s also not like Mean Pretty Girl. Something something best friend vs. bad boy. Something something court politics. Like, come on.

→ character development ←
And noooooow I have to go back on what I just said, because yeah, the tropes are annoying, but some tropes exist for a reason - namely, the whole beauty thing. Because despite my annoyance at Leigh Bardugo’s reliance on the beautiful-bitchy-girl-trope [Zoya.] I actually think she plays with Alina’s insecurity pretty well. Whether she knows she’s doing it is anyone’s guess. But Alina’s insecurity actually feels like a super authentic character trait. AND THE BIG REASON I’M UP ON ALINA IS BECAUSE… SHE GETS SO COOL. Because Alina fucking Starkov had the greatest antihero moment at the end of this book after being sort of boring for half the book. I’m so proud of her. I hope she spends two books fucking shit up and murdering people and she and the Darkling become mortal enemies. I am a very normal person.

→ romantic development ←
I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY Y’ALL REVIEW THIS BOOK THE WAY YOU DO. Because the Darkling… is not… sexy. He’s a really interesting and compelling character but the fact that this is this a popular ship actually makes me want to cry and throw things. And Mal was waaaaaayy less annoying than y’all made him out to be. I am actually legitimately confused as to why he’s so hated because he’s… fine? He says one paragraph of shitty things to Alina and then apologizes to her and recognizes that he was wrong? Which, if that’s annoying, absolutely fine and understandable, but you have to know on some level that saying he’s abusive but the Darkling is “sexy” is ridiculous. We have to know this. Please tell me we know this.

→ authorial development ←
This series… is definitely not as good as Six of Crows. They’re on entirely different planes and that is okay and valid. But it’s actually hilarious how many SoC vibes this had. Genya is literally early-version-Nina and the Darkling is early-version-Kaz, except I don’t like either of them as much. [okay, fine, I do like Genya.] Mal is kind of bland. [Somewhat bland love interest who possibly might be working through prejudice… hm I feel like that sounds familiar] Alina had the greatest antihero moment at the end of this book after being sort of boring for half the book.

Anyway. I like antiheroes. I do not like 400 pages of nothing happening. I don’t really like tropey writing. I don’t know how I feel about this book. someone please send help?

overall: I’m glad I’m finally completing the Leigh Bardugo writing train so I can continue with all her future releases in the Grisha world. I wish this book were better. I am still glad I read it. This review was a mess. I thank you for your time.

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Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 316 books397k followers
Read
November 8, 2013
So many YA fantasy romances out there these days. You would think it would be hard to put a fresh spin on the concept, but Leigh Bardugo makes it look easy. Her debut Shadow and Bone takes Russian folklore and mythology and creates an alternate tsarist Russia (Ravka) where magic and military might coexist uneasily. Imagine a cross between Cashore's Graceling and Westerfeld's Leviathan . . . and yet Shadow and Bone is unique.

Our main characters, Alina and Mal, grow up as orphans at the estate of a kindly duke, until the time comes for them to serve their country. Both are tested by the Grisha, an ancient and powerful order of magicians, but neither show aptitude, so Mal becomes an accomplished military tracker, while Alina studies as an army cartographer and has nothing to look forward to but a mundane existence. Homely and scrawny, Alina watches as her dashing, handsome best friend Mal, whom she secretly loves, gets attention from all the girls.

Their lives change when their regiment is ordered across the Shadow Fold, a deadly rift of darkness that cuts Ravka in two, separating the eastern capital from its ports in West Ravka. When the caravan is attacked by gargoyle-like monsters called volcra, Alina discovers powers she didn't know she had. Immediately, she becomes the most important person in the kingdom, the target of enemy assassins, and is whisked away to the palace of the Darkling, the head of the Grisha and right hand of the king, to learn the ways of magic. Alina might hold the secret to destroying the Shadow Fold and saving Ravka, but only if she survives her enemies -- some from other countries, some from within the kingdom itself.

Shadow and Bone works on every level. It's a believable and poignant romance. It's a great mystery in which the villains and heroes are not at all who they seem. It's a first-rate adventure. Maybe I was especially drawn to this book because I got to visit Russia last summer and can easily imagine the Grisha slipping through the corridors of the Winter Palace, but I suspect this book will appeal to many readers even if they have no knowledge of Russian history. I'll be anxiously waiting for the second book in the series!
Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
459 reviews162k followers
July 16, 2015
(3.5)
I really enjoyed this and I'm definitely going to be continuing on with this trilogy, but I did have a few issues with it. While I was fascinated by the world, but at the same time, I didn't feel like the world was fleshed out enough. We don't really get much world building, you're just kind of thrown into the world, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but for me there were things that I needed to be explained more for me to be able to fully visualize the setting. I also just wasn't a huge fan of the main character Alina, and maybe I'll grow to like her in the next few books, but in this book she annoyed me. I did LOVE Leigh Bardugo's writing style. I found it to be very unique! I'll be doing a video review / discussion soon so look out for that!
Profile Image for Hannah Azerang.
124 reviews90.1k followers
April 13, 2021
[2021]

4.5 stars

2021 me is laughing at my 2016 review because rereading this changed everything I felt about this book. I love it so much more now and for completely different reasons. Honestly an all time favorite 💗
(can’t believe I was a darkling stan 💀)


[2016]

3.5 Stars

I honestly had no intention of reading this series, but after loving Six of Crows I decided that I had to give The Grisha Trilogy a chance. And I am SO happy that I did!

While I felt that the plot and romance were somewhat tropey, I instantly fell in love with the world and the characters (especially the Darkling <3) and I can't wait to see how they develop in the rest of the series!
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
525 reviews56.7k followers
January 11, 2019
How excited are you that this is becoming a Netflix show?! :D

I went into this book with pretty low expectations. Everyone seemed to not love it and I wanted to read it just so I could get to the Six of Crows duology. Well turns out I really liked it. Even more than Six of Crows!

Not a fan of the romance/love triangle ish but the world is interesting and the magic system is awesome.

The first book is my favorite of the trilogy!

I recommend you read this before reading Six of Crows. I know everyone says you don't need to but I highly disagree!
Profile Image for Sarah Maas.
Author 86 books287k followers
April 14, 2011
I don't think words can properly describe how much I adored SHADOW & BONE. The characters, the world-building...it completely blew me away. There were moments when I was so stunned by the beauty and the brilliance that I had to stop reading. I never wanted this book to end.

This is the best YA fantasy novel I've read since SABRIEL or THE GOLDEN COMPASS.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,478 reviews29.7k followers
April 9, 2020
'fine. make me your villain.'

oh, my darling darkling. i would do soooo much more than that. you can put your collar on me any day. is… is this what love feels like?

5 stars
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
515 reviews34.4k followers
August 26, 2018
”I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina,” he said. “You and I are going to change the world.”

Leigh’s cooking receipt for “Shadow and Bone”:

1 naïve and rather plain looking heroine
1 handsome childhood friend
1 dark, mysterious and irresistible villain
1 close friend that’s kind of an outsider as well
A pinch of magic
A hint of insecurity
A handful of unexpected events
And half a teaspoon of scheming and betrayal

To get the full effect you have to mix up all the ingredients and let the dough rise for at least half an hour. Well and then you just mix it all again! *lol*

Et voila! Now you have a book with all the typical young adult tropes that somehow managed to take a different kind of turn than you initially expected. ;-P
I swear some of the things Leigh wrote were even a surprise for such a long-established Young Adult fan like myself. Haha! She’s a clever woman, I have to give her that! XD

The characters:

The Darkling is known for his swoon-worthy Darkness, I’m known for my spoilery characters section! Guess we all have our talents. ;-P Anyway, if you don’t want to read any spoilers you better click that nice exit button now. ;-P Otherwise you’ll enter the Fold and no matter if you’ve read the book or not, it’s usually a place of no return. XD

Alina:

”I guess you only look like a mouse,” he whispered in my ear, and then beckoned to one of his personal guard.”

I liked Alina, but she didn’t sweep me off my feet. I mean she’s basically your typical Young Adult heroine: orphan, plain looking, stubborn, kind, powerful and very, very naïve. *lol* So yeah, she was as likable as they come, but I didn’t really have hearty-eyes when I read about her. I’m pretty sure she’s going to be on guard after the events of book one and I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen in the next book. There are definitely a lot of possibilities and I’m looking forward to read about her character development. Because , yes, there will be a lot of character development ahead of her and I hope it’s going to make her interesting. I mean, no YA heroine ever started out with a fully developed character so I guess we’ll have to see what Leigh has in store for us! ;-)

The Darkling:

”He had a sharp, beautiful face, a shock of thick black hair, and clear gray eyes that glimmered like quartz.”

I finally met the infamous Darkling!!! YESH!!! *runs around hyper* And he’s as amazing as I thought he’d be!!! I love this dark, mysterious, broody, intriguing and sexy guy! XD And I sooo wasn’t surprised that he’s the villain. I mean come on, Alina!!! He’s named “The Darkling” for a reason!!! I can’t believe she was so naïve. *lol* Well anyway, where were we? Yes, the Darkling! XD I love him to bits and pieces. He’s everything I need a villain to be: cruel, cunning, calculating, ambitious, ruthless and misguided. XD Not to mention so swoon-worthy that I had a hard time to concentrate whenever I read one of his scenes. *lol* So yeah, I’m a fan of the Darkling now and I’m not ashamed!!! <333 Can’t wait to find out what he’s going to do in the next two books! =))

”I’m not used to people trying to kill me.”
“Really? I hardly notice anymore.”


”I hope you don’t expect fairness from me, Alina. It isn’t one of my specialities.”

”He sounded so sincere, so reasonable, less a creature of relentless ambition than a man who believed he was doing the right thing for his people. Despite all he’d done and all he intended, I did almost believe him. Almost.”

Mal:

”I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me we don’t belong together,” he said fiercely. He was very close now, and my heart was suddenly hammering in my chest. “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”

I don’t get why so many people hate Mal. I mean he’s actually kinda cute! I didn’t like Kilorn in “Red Queen” and I usually tend to dislike the “handsome childhood friends” in YA books but I really ended up liking Mal. He’s nice and caring and he’s a loyal friend of Alina. Plus he’s not as annoying as they usually are! Mal was a nice counterweight to Alina, he always thought ahead was reasonable, knew his limits and seemed to be a rather laid-back guy. So why all the hate?! Is he doing something bad in the next two books?! I don’t understand all the annoyed updates I read about him, because I think he’s a decent love interest and I really like him. XD

Genya:

”You should be used to being gawked at by now.”
“And yet I’m not.”
“Well, if it gets too bad, give me a signal, and I’ll get up on the banquet table, toss my skirt over my head, and do a little dance. That way no one will be looking at you.”


Aww I loved Genya so damn much!! <333 She’s such an amazing woman and I really hope that she’ll end up on Alina’s side in the next book. I know why she had to support the Darkling and why she didn’t dare to act against his wishes and I feel really sorry for her. I wish there would have been more scenes with my precious girl but since she was only a side character in the first book her appearances were rather limited. Still, she swept me off my feet and I hope to see her again! There’s still so much I don’t know about her and I really want to meet her again! Hopefully under better circumstances this second time around. =)

Nikolai:

”What about the other one?” I asked I knew the King and Queen had a younger son, but I’d never actually seen him.
“Sobachka?”
“You can’t call a royal prince ‘puppy,’ “ I laughed.


Soo, can anyone explain why Nikolai is called “Sobachka”? *lol* I thought I’d get to know him in this book but all I got were a few little hints that only made me even more curious. Guess he’s going to make his entrance in the next book?! I’m soo damn curious you have no idea!!! XD

Baghra:

”It isn’t an animal that shies away from you or chooses whether or not to come when you call it. Do you ask your heart to beat or your lungs to breathe? Your power serves you because that is its purpose, because it cannot help but serve you.”

Ohh Baghra certainly was an interesting character. For one thing she wasn’t just Alina’s cruel and relentless instructor but also the Darkling’s mother! Yes, you read right! His freaking mother!!! *LOL* Leigh, you did something amazing there!!! I mean how many YA and fantasy books did I read?! Too many to count, but the villain never ever had a mom! XD Well, in this trilogy he has one and she’s not happy with her son! Haha! I just loved this!!! Thank you Leigh, this was truly amazing! <333

The Ships:

Alina & The Darkling:

”The problem with wanting,” he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, “is that it makes us weak.”

They had some sizzling chemistry that’s for sure!! I loved it when the Darkling did his best to seduce Alina and in all honesty I definitely wouldn’t have been as restrained as her. *lol* I really don’t know how she even managed to contain herself. I got weak knees just reading about him and I admire Alina for not throwing herself at him. Haha! I doubt I’d have had that strength. I guess their ship sunk and ended up being shipwrecked in the end though. Pity, I certainly would have loved to read more of those intense and hot scenes. ;-P

”So you do make mistakes,” I said without thinking.
He paused in the act of pulling on his gloves, and I pressed my lips together nervously. “I didn’t mean –“
“Of course I make mistakes,” he said. His mouth curved into a half smile. “Just not often.”


Alina & Mal:

”Look at me.” I willed myself to raise my eyes to his. “I know you’re scared. I am, too. But we’re going to do this, and we’re going to be fine. We always are. Okay?”

I loved their strong friendship and I lived for their easy banter. They knew each other inside out and it was refreshing to see that the “handsome childhood bestie” trope worked out nicely for once. In all the other YA books the childhood friend always ends up being scorned, not in this one! Leigh actually managed to pull it off to give them a good and solid basis for a strong relationship. =) Which is a first! I never read a YA book in which the best friend actually ended up being the main love interest. So, Queen Leigh, you have all my respect!! *bows* I’m not sure if it will stay that way and if they’ll still be together at the end of the last book, but I have hope for them and this is more than I had for other YA bestie couples. XD

He swallowed, and I could see him struggle with the knowledge, but all he said was, “All right.”
I let out a sound that was half laugh, half sob. “Only you could contemplate imminent death and just say ‘all right.’ “
He smiled at me and pushed the hair back from my tear-stained face. “How about ‘oh no’?”


Conclusion:

I really enjoyed “Shadow and Bone” and I was so curious how it would continue that I already started with the second book. I usually don’t start with the next book until I wrote a proper review for the first one so that should tell you enough about how desperately I wanted to read on. *lol*

So yeah, if you’re a sucker for YA tropes and want to see how they can be written in unexpected ways, I highly recommend you to read this book! You won’t be disappointed! Queen Leigh knows her stuff! ;-P
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
March 30, 2013

Please note: this is not really a review. In fact, this may be my most useless non-review to date (there have been a few) and is actually better described as a random mish-mash of my thoughts and feelings on this book. "Aren't all your reviews like that, Emily?" I hear you cry, but alas, the random incoherentness is somewhat even more pronounced in this one.

You know, I've wondered ever since Shadow and Bone was released last year whether I would fall into the camp of gushing, never-ending love for it... or find myself sat sipping kvas with the other sceptics and laughing over the preposterous idea that we could ever get drunk on it. I was prepared for it to go either way. However, I find myself uselessly sitting somewhere in the middle, lonesomely twiddling my thumbs and pondering all the different things I liked but didn't love and disliked but didn't hate. How very annoying of me. I'm sat here going through my mental list of the book's faults whilst simultaneously trying to figure out what organs and/or limbs I can get away with exchanging for an ARC of Siege and Storm.

I mean, I didn't like Alina that much. She was okay. She was fine. But you know something is wrong when the heroine is merely "okay" and "fine". I found her a touch (a touch too much) on the wimpy side for my liking, she was too eager to play the damsel in distress on multiple occasions but I've heard she gets better in the sequel. Let's hope so. Admittedly, I only decided to read this now because of the hype surrounding the sequel so I have my fingers crossed that Siege and Storm can rid us of the problems I have with this series.

Especially the fact that this is quite a poor excuse for fantasy. Limited world-building, light fantasy-style background which is heavily diluted by romance, mean girls, bitchiness and seemingly useless tidbits of information about noble life. This is like the chick-lit, high school version of fantasy, filled with characters who are supposedly hardcore warriors but spend much of the novel keeping their hardcore warrior hands disappointingly clean. The roughest, most gruesome bit of this story is perhaps when a poor stag gets murdered. Which is really just depressing all round. Thankfully, though, the novel's large amount of tame scenes did provide me with some entertainment and a few laughs. There is a certain base addictive quality to Bardugo's writing that makes it incredibly easy to digest and even necessary to read on.

Another negative - sorry - is the rather silly obsession with looks in the novel. For one, I couldn't give a damn about the various vanities of the Grisha women; for another, it annoyed me how Alina seemed to equate her worth with her looks from the very beginning. She denies her power can possibly exist because she isn't a luminous ball of hotness like the others. But, as with good old plain Bella Swan, everyone falls in love with her anyway. To be honest, that is an unfair comparison because Alina - even with her faults - is a far more interesting character than Bella. But still, get a grip on yourself. And douse yourself with some badassery so you can stop being such a wimp because so far this world is looking awfully like the disappointing one of Grave Mercy.

Also - is there a love triangle here? I'm not even certain what's happening. I kinda hope there is. Ha, bet you weren't expecting that! But, you know, Darkling is really quite a sexy word, don't you think? And maybe Ms Bardugo hasn't got the whole fantasy thing down in this book but she sure knows exactly what she's doing with his characterisation. He's dangerous, he's sexy, he likes to make out with you in secret rooms, he's arrogant with a little side order of hidden feelings to kick you right in the ovaries and the heart at the same time. I suppose Mal is the safer and more sensible option and the one I'd be telling Alina to go for if this was the real world and she was a friend of mine. But - yay! - this isn't the real world and the complexity of the Darkling attracts me. The way I feel about him is similar to how I felt about Ido in Eona but hopefully this won't have a similar conclusion.

Thank you if you actually read my non-review. If anyone knows how I can acquire an ARC of the sequel, please tell me and I shall be forever grateful.
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16k followers
April 28, 2012
Damn you, Leigh Barduga. Damn you for tricking me.

Leigh Barduga is like some kind of literary crouching tiger, hidden dragon or something.

You would be forgiven, upon commencing this novel, for thinking Shadow and Bone is redundant, cliched piece of tripe book with poor story-telling, average writing and a predictable plot. People who haven't read countless Young Adult novels probably wouldn't notice the trends, but I did. This is what I thought and Leigh led me down the primrose path until... BOOM!

Game change. Glorious, glorious game change. Black is white, up is down, you are not secretly attracted to me. EVERYTHING CHANGES.

Kaching. Lights on. Real show begins and we hope you enjoyed that prelude. Also, while you weren't looking, we falcon-punched your ovaries.

The themes of Shadow and Bone center around power, and the struggle for it. What does it mean? What is it worth? What do you do with it? Also, there's love and romancey stuff for those who care for such things - and who have a functioning heart.

More importantly, for me, was the violence, court intrigue and sexy times of which make up some part of this novel. These aspects were definitely there but they were flirted with. I would have liked more of these and a little less of the boarding-house shenanigans and bitchy-mean girl drama. It was outside these factors that I loved the novel.

It's strengths definitely rely on its characters and powerful storyline because the actual narration and writing tended toward the telling as opposed to showing side.

For example:

Alexei's fingers slipped on the railing. I lunged forward and grabbed his arm.

"Hold on!" I cried.

Then the flame vanished, and in the darkness I felt Alexei's fingers pulled from mine.

"Alexei!" I shouted.

His screams faded into the sounds of battle as the volca carried him into the dark. Another burst of flame lit the sky, but he was gone.

Still, I'm wondering if maybe the things I loved most about Shadow and Bone will be carried on in the next novel. To the very last page I loved the Darkling - not because he was sexy - but for the dark, rawness of his character. The dynamic it played with Alina in how she saw herself. Identity, concepts of misplaced idealism. Lust, love, ownership vs freely given love. It was all there amidst a world-building that was surprisingly lite for this caliber of novel - yet hinted at so much more.

Overall, a great read and I look forward to the next book where Leigh will probably rip out my still-beating heart and feed it to a raging bear while I applaud in amazement. Or, you know, something synonymous.
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.4k followers
April 23, 2019
It's been a couple of weeks since I finished this, and I can't remember a single character name except for The Darkling. Whoops.
This was a run-of-the-mill YA fantasy book. It wasn't bad, just bland. The characters, romance, and (most of) the plot were quite generic and almost forgettable. I think 2014 Zoë who loved Throne of Glass would also have loved this, but my tastes have evolved since then. Also, I've realized that fantasy written in first person is not my cup of tea.
However, in the sea of medieval European-based fantasy series, this industrial Russian-inspired world totally stood out. I now understand why Leigh Bardugo chose to stay in this world for two more series. I can't wait to see how she expands the universe and the magic system!
In short: I only picked this up so that I can eventually get to Six of Crows. I don't think I necessarily wasted my time as I understand the world more, but I'm not rushing to pick up the sequel.
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
June 23, 2012

Check out the interview with Leigh Bardugo where she saves Kat Kennedy and I from Ninjas. True story. Also, there's a giveaway of a finished copy of Shadow and Bone!


If I could wrap up my emotions about how I felt after reading Shadow and Bone and send them to you through my computer screen, I totally would. Instead, I'm afraid you'll have to settle for my words: THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING! I wish I could unread it just so I can go back and re-read it again for the first time.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Yes, I loved it that much.

Now I've come to the part where I am supposed to describe to you the awesomeness that is Shadow and Bone and I'm finding that rather difficult to do. Why is that? Is it because while reading a book you love your get so swept away with the story that you can't be bothered to take notes? Or perhaps it's the fact that you don't want to give away too much of the story? You want other potential readers to go into the book blind, expecting little and gaining everything the story has to offer? I suspect it is a little of both for me and with that, I offer my sincerest apologies if you do not find this review helpful. It is my hope, however, that my inability to do this book justice in my review speaks volumes in and of itself.

Shadow and Bone follows the story of Alina Starkov, a remarkable young girl, who holds a power not even she realizes she has. All her life she's never fit in. Not in the orphanage where she grew up alongside her best friend, Mal, nor in the First Army where she serves as a mapmaker. In her world people of elite status with unique abilities, called Grisha, serve as nothing more than fanciful servants to the kingdom of Ravka.  One day, while protecting Mal, it is revealed that she too is Grisha with a very rare and sought after power: the ability to summon sunlight. She soon finds herself in a very different world filled with adventure, betrayal, and a sinister plot that could destroy all of Ravka.

Within the first 10% of Shadow and Bone I knew that I would give it at least 4 stars. The book begins quickly immersing the reader into the kingdom of Ravka head on. Terms are thrown at the reader at a reasonable pace for a fantasy novel and for once I didn't immediately feel overwhelmed or the need to "play ketchup" with the characters. I can tell Bardugo employed the rule of "show, don't tell" and I believe she did it well. I found myself hanging on the edge of my seat waiting for more of the world to be revealed to me. There was never a dull moment reading Shadow and Bone; no downtime for me to catch my breath. And I loved every minute of it!

I thought the plot was very well done and I got so caught up in the story that the plot twists just blew me away. I was so engrossed that by the time the climax hit I felt an intake of breath and couldn't tear myself away from the book for the duration of the read!


Oh. My. God. NOooooooo!

And the characters.... ahhhhh, the characters! I loved them all to pieces! Alina is naive, candid, and feeble in the beginning, but she grows so much throughout the novel. (Yes, Yes! I know! Character development! It really does still exist in YA novels!) Does she make mistakes? Absolutely! But she realizes them and she strives to be better. I can see there is a lot of conflict in her character to come in the next two novels in the series and I am VERY eager to see how that is handled. I also loved the Darkling. I can't really say much about him because I am NOT giving away any spoilers in this review--not even in a spoiler tag because I know how some of you are!-- but he was awesome! Just the right amount of intrigue and mystery. And Mal. *sigh* Oh, Mal. Let's just say he is another love interest we can add to our swoon worthy list right next to Tucker Avery. ;)
"I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I'd catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason , just out of habit, because I'd seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I'd realize that you weren't there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I've risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me why we don't belong together," he said fiercely.

I think it goes without saying I loved the writing. The descriptions were vivid, easy to visualize and thankfully, not overdone (I'm really hoping there will be a map in the finished copy. Please tell me there's a map waiting for me!). The book is told through Alina's PoV, so we get a first hand account of the happenings. And boy are there some happenings! I'll tell you one thing, Bardugo can write a kissing scene... well. And the romance? Man, I just loved the romance. It was so sweet and by the end it just tore at my heart!
The moment our lips met, I knew with pure and piercing certainty that I would have waited for him forever.

*sigh*

This book. I just love it!

I'm really not sure what else to say about Shadow and Bone besides the obvious: it was awesome and you should read it. If you are a fantasy lover, rejoice! If fantasy isn't your thing, still rejoice! Because this is a book that is sure to take you and your heart on a wild adventure this summer.

EDIT: I've been informed that there will be a map included drawn by Keith Thompson! Click here to check it out!

ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. As always, this review expresses my honest opinion of the book. No gifts or monetary funds were exchanged for a review. 

For more reviews like this one be sure to check out Cuddlebuggery Book Blog!
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
275 reviews454 followers
April 28, 2021
"The usual. Life. Love. The melting point of iron ore."

Having read Six of Crows first, I was a little worried about reading Shadow and Bone. Based on a lot of reviews, I thought this will fall way behind SoC, resulting in a dull read. Turns out all that anxiety was not necessary at all. This might not be as conniving or eventful as SoC, but things turned out way better than I had hoped. I know it's not fair to compare the two, with Shadow and Bone series coming first, so I'm going to stop myself from doing that as much as possible...

Compared to the average YA fantasy book, I have no complaints about the plot. It felt unique, thrilling, and plenty interesting (again, when not compared to SoC). It's always great to dive in to a new world of fantasy, full of interesting characters, and complemented by a vivid world. We all know how great Bardugo is at that. This first book of Grishaverse offers a fast-paced series of events, with some minor twists here and there. I would've preferred it be a little more complicated, with a couple of interesting side quests, but, we are only progressing along a single story line for now. Still, it's a good one.

"Close your mouth. You look like a trout."

I have to hand it to Bardugo for her consistent, and engaging style of writing, which is something that's going to captivate the reader from beginning. Just like with SoC, she effortlessly build up the world, with some amazing elements. With that said, this is all a lot less complex than Kerch. I loved the set of characters as well. Alina Starkov, the firs-person protagonist is so much fun, and there was never a dull moment with her. Secondary characters were also interesting, even down to villains.

I'm still somewhat confused on whether or not I should've read this trilogy before SoC. Even though the trilogy came first, I feel like reading SoC first wasn't mistake. It made me fall in love with the world Bardugo created (much better than Shadow and Bone would've done if this had been my first visit to this world), and I believe it helped me navigate this one smoothly. SoC gave me a great first impression to this amazing world, which will not fade away easily. True, this does not come even closely to SoC when it comes to suspense, or the complexity of characters, but it was interesting enough. Had I started with this one first, I can't help but wonder, things might've been different, and not for the better. With that being said, as interesting as this one was, when compared, it didn't have the same energy to pull in the reader as it was with SoC duology. But I'm hoping that things will continue to better with next two.

"Why can a Grisha possess but one amplifier? I will answer this question instead: What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men."
Profile Image for The Burning Rose (Jess).
161 reviews306 followers
December 11, 2019
3.5/5 stars.
I can't believe I finally found time to write this review. I finished the book a while ago but I'm so busy, my God.

So let's start by saying that, despite the low number of stars, this book was a good book overall. I will explain later why I took down 1.5 stars.

Let's start with the good stuff.
For a while now this series has winked at me from my bookshelf. I know the high around the writer Leigh Bardugo and I have long wanted to see what and why people love her books so much. now I get it. She is indeed a good writer.
Her writing is flowing, interesting. The idea of ​​the plot is good. And you don't realize how happy I was to understand that the names were in a Russian style. Alina, Ivan, Genya, etc. ugh, wonderful names. It's a refreshing idea, I've never read about books based on it.

Now I'll talk about the plot itself. Well, It’s interesting. True, the plot reminds me of some books I have read in the past, but I do not judge it because there are quite a few people who are drawn to similar ideas. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the plot is copied or unoriginal.
I enjoyed the plot and that's what matters to me.

The plot had some drawbacks. Sometimes it was expected, sometimes it was clichéd, sometimes it was just boring. There were situations where I was in no mood to read because I was bored with reading it. BUT, there were some interesting turns that brought my mood back to reading.

There were excerpts where I told myself that this book has the potential to be really good if the writer gives up some boring stuff. And by that I mean mostly the beginning. I was so bored with the beginning of the book. At least for the first 50 pages, I thought to myself, "And what's going on here?” But as I went on, I found myself enjoying the plot and the book itself.

Now I'll talk about the characters.
Let's start with Alina-
Alina was a refreshing character. Alina isn’t perfect at all. She's not that pretty. She's not strong. In fact, she's even pretty weak. She is terribly shy. She has an urge to be loved, and her desire to integrate and belong where she is.
She's a pretty realistic character overall. You can find such people in the real world - unlike main characters in other books.

Mal-
A pretty confusing character. Overall he’s well built. He doesn't have that much room in this book, if we don't refer to the many mentions and thoughts in Alina's mind, of course.
To this book, he’s not so much a contributor. But to Alina he does, and a lot. I can see him as an anchor to Alina, so he’s actually welcome in the book.

The Darkling-
He’s the most interesting character in this book in my opinion.
Is he good? Is he bad? Is he in love with Alina, or is he playing himself to achieve some purpose? Is what he brings out really true, or is he lying? So many questions - and no answers.
Basically, in my opinion, it's beyond just a good or bad guy. I can't be sure, because in the first book we have no answers to this question. But at least from what I understood from the first book - he has his will, his purpose. And is it good or bad? It probably varies according to the way a person sees it.

Genya-
Excellent character. I loved her from the first moment she entered the book. She seems to be realistic. No, that's not exactly the right word- but the right word doesn't come to my mind right now, so you'll probably have to settle with that. She has an existing world around her, and although she doesn't like her place, she accepts it and survives. I also liked the fact that she is beautiful and aware of it. I'm tired of pretty characters who are unaware of this fact, although clearly everyone tells her so.
In addition, I loved the combination between Alina and Genya. They can have amazing friendships.

So why only 3.5 stars?
As I mentioned before - the beginning has bored me significantly. And I wish I would say that the plot later in book was worth it... I mean, it was good - but not great.
The characters as well, overall were good - but not so much, not all of them. If it weren't for The Darkling (and a little of Genya, too) - I guess I wouldn't have cared about the characters that much.

There's something I really loved about Alina and the plot, and I have to point it out, but please note: THIS IS A SPOILER. This is the end of the review, so if you don't want to be exposed to the spoiler - just stop here.



The moment Alina realized that the power from the stag was created and controlled not only by the killing, but also by the mercy. It was exhilarating. And not necessarily because I'm vegan and see mercy to the animals a pure thing. I was extremely excited by the way magic was not necessarily built on control created by evil and killing - but also by the power of good. Power doesn’t come only from evil - it also comes from goodness, mercy. And love have a strong influence on nature and magic in nature.
Profile Image for Chelsea *Slowly Catching Up* Humphrey.
1,390 reviews77.2k followers
October 12, 2022
Am I going to be crucified if I admit I may love this more than the Six of Crows duology? I think this may be due to the fact that I should have listened to everyone and started with these first. I was so confused initially in SoC that it took a lot longer than it should have for me to get sucked in. So far the grisha trilogy feels darker and more serious than SoC as well. I'm really liking Alina more than I have liked other female leads of recent and was pleased this book didn't end with her being the weeping willow I've grown tired of.

Don't hate me, but I still <3 THE DARKLING . Beard of Moses. All the heart eyes. I may have to just binge the rest of the series because I just gotta know what happens before I start searching for spoilers. Really glad I have Kainat and Bentley to hold my hand through these tough times y'all. I apologize for waiting so long to read these and not listening to the masses.

*******************************

Buddy Read with the fabulous Bentley<3
Profile Image for Maria.
65 reviews8,375 followers
March 15, 2019
4/5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”


This is my first dive into Leigh Bardugo's magical and mysterious Grisha universe. I acquired all the books in the The Grisha Trilogy and the The Six of Crows Duology Boxed Set, but never bothered to start off with them. Mostly due to the great book slump I have been experiencing for the last 6 months, but also because I knew these were big and many books and the commitment to finish them all off would be grand. But then a marvelous announcement came to pass... Netflix is picking this series up. I was so fucking happy, even though I hadn't the faintest clue about the series. And that's when I knew I had to start now with it, so I would have time to finish it before anything Netflix releases, commences. And now here I am, off to the long journey of the Grisha world.

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.


First of all my general opinion about this book... it was what I expected it to be. A solid 4 star book, a start to a beautiful universe and the even more hyped Six of Crows duology I've been dying to claw my hands into. I did my research before starting reading about this world... I know the Six of Crows duology happens after the Grisha trilogy and I had to read this one first not to spoil myself. So... I resisted opening up the first book in the Six of Crows duology and started here. I don't regret it, but I have to admit, I feel a bit underwhelmed by this book.

Leigh Bardugo is an incredible writer, her world building is magnificent, the "magic" system unique and the descriptions luxurious and incredible. I was extremely confused, at first, with all the different castes and the new words, but I guess it's more down to the fact that I haven't read a single fantasy book in months. But I got over it easily, and I was much more eager to explore this massive new universe. The problem with me was in the characters, the love triangle and the tropes they all served.

Alina
The main character of this book is a trope by herself. The orphan, ordinary girl, who pines for her hot best friend from her childhood who doesn't even bat an eye on her. The "ugly", insecure girl, who doesn't miss a chance to tell us how gorgeous every one around her is and how out of place she feels, but in reality that ain't the truth. And after everything... she is the chosen one, the one to save the world, and the ordinary girl becomes the Savior of the universe and then the hot boy looks at her in another light, and this ordinary girl can shake worlds. Yes, the usual trope, which was good in 2014. But I didn't mind her. She had her moments, and I enjoyed her character much more that I would have imagined.

The romance

I feel I'm too old for this kind of romance and it was intended for people much younger than me. Which is true, I should have read this book back when it was released, and I'm sure I would have found the romance more appealing. And yet the romance is full of tropes, the bad guy, the good guy and the ordinary girl who isn't ordinary at all both of them pine for. When the bad guy in disguise seduces the ordinary girl in disguise, the good guy emerges to take her away and make her his. Yes, ok, whatevs. I enjoyed the plot much more than the romance, that's for sure.

The plot

Yes, it was predictable, at times. Yes, sometimes the choices the characters made made me want to scream at them. Yes, the pacing could have been a bit quicker. But you know. I read this book in 2 days and I wouldn't leave it down for God's sake. I was sucked into this world and consumed by it that I didn't want to leave the book down. Which is a win, on the writer's part. Because this book, in spite of its flaws and tropes and weak moments, it grasps your attention by the balls. This book tells you "HERE I AM AND I'M HERE TO STAY" and I'm glad I picked it up.

In total, this book was what I expected it to be, a very good start to a promising series. It gave me truly momentous moments and yet other not so momentous but what I got from it is that I want to read more. And this is the most amazing part. We'll see each other again, soon, with the next book in the series soooo, till the next book in the Grisha trilogy K BYE!
Profile Image for Steph Su.
943 reviews452 followers
May 19, 2012
People have been throwing 4 and 5 stars at this book left and right, and I wonder what I missed. I was prepared to give this book 2 stars, maybe even 3 if I was feeling generous on the day I wrote the review, but as I pushed myself through the first half of this book, I encountered increasingly more things that irritated me, until the one that pushed me over the edge and convinced me that I’d be okay with not ever finishing SHADOW AND BONE.

It started out strong: atmospheric and engrossing. Past the prologue, however, when the book switches into first-person narration, it was downhill for me. I simply could not get behind Alina as the narrator. Instead of a strong and self-reliant young woman, we get a clueless and un-self-confident weakling who enters “damsel in distress” mode the second things start going crazy, never mind the unique abilities she supposedly possesses. She’s in the habit of saying things along the lines of “But I can’t possibly be special!” every time anyone tries to talk to her about her abilities. Even better is her reasoning behind why she can’t be special: because the grisha—of whom she is now one—are all beautiful women, and she is plain.

Really, now?

SHADOW AND BONE’s strange obsession with the significance of beauty continues as Alina enters court and promptly receives a magical makeover. This is a very important step to her character development, peoples! Right. Alina’s closest confidante at court is this magical makeover artist who—obviously—is the most beautiful woman ever, and—obviously—is hated by nearly everyone at court.

If that doesn’t make me roll my eyes enough, there’s the additional grievance that Bardugo apparently underestimates the intelligence of her YA audience. There are constantly “telling” statements when characters, locations, and/or events are introduced that forcibly “guide” readers into thinking a certain way about that character, location, and/or event. For instance:
The Grisha seemed obsessed with emulating serf ways, right down to the clothes we wore beneath our kefta. But there was something a little silly about eating “hearty peasant fare” off porcelain plates, beneath a dome inlaid with real gold. And what peasant wouldn’t pick pastry over pickled fish? The Little Palace was a storybook version of serf life, no more like the real Ravka than the glitter and gilt of the royal court.

Wouldn’t it be better to, I don’t know, show this gradually through depictions of court vs. common life, instead of dumping this theme on us within a few pages of introducing us to the court?

And when the queen is introduced:
The Queen was beautiful, with smooth blond hair in a perfect coiffure, her delicate features cold and lovely. But there was also something a little odd about her face. Her irises seemed a little too blue, her hair too yellow, her skin too smooth. I wondered just how much work Genya had done on her.

On the magical makeup artist’s crush on a regular guy:
Genya’s voice was light, but it had a funny little edge to it, and when I glanced at her, I saw that there were bright spots of color on her perfect cheekbones. I looked back through the windows to where I could still see David’s bony shoulders and messy brown hair. I smiled. If a creature as gorgeous as Genya could fall for a skinny, studious Fabrikator, there might be hope for me yet.

That passage would’ve been so much stronger without that last sentence, which is not only over-the-top obvious, but also, once again, unnecessarily and annoyingly, brings up Alina’s lack of self-confidence.

And so on and so forth. The Inner Editor in me was busy slashing out entire pages of words and mentally ordering the author to rewrite nearly everything.

Other reviewers do a much better job of talking about SHADOW AND BONE’s lack of research into Russian culture. My knowledge of Russian culture and history is woefully lacking, so I’ll let them talk about that. But I will mention the thing that got me so mad that when I read it, I actually screamed out loud and immediately turned off the Kindle, knowing that this book had no more chances of getting me to read onwards.

Writing a “Russian-flavored” fantasy with hardly any research into Russian culture is bad enough—but then there was the TRULY AWFUL use of Asian stereotypes that had me fuming.
Our instructor, Botkin Yul-Erdene, wasn’t Grisha; he was a former Shu Han mercenary who had fought in wars on every continent for any army that could afford his particular gift for violence.

Shu Han is clearly the SHADOW AND BONE-world equivalent of the Chinese race, taking its name from the ancient Han Dynasty, but with the unfortunate connection to the stereotype of hulking, dangerous-looking, surly, war-happy Asian soldiers-for-hire. (In pop culture, you can see this stereotype in the Disney movie Mulan, where they are known as Huns, which is another name for the Xiongnu, a nomadic military-centric tribe located in present-day Mongolia and coexisting—not necessarily peaceably—with the Han Dynasty. And this is all stuff you can glean off of Wikipedia, which makes it entirely inadequate for academic essays and fictions claiming to draw their influences from real-world histories and cultures.)
“Is this what they teach in First Army?” he sneered in his heavy Shu accent as I stumbled up a hill...

“Block!” he shouted, knocking me backward. “Faster! Maybe little girl likes to be hit?”...

But before we were out the door, [Botkin] called, “Tomorrow, little girl comes early, trains with Botkin.”

Why, for the love of any religion’s god(s), must Botkin sound like a campy version of an Asian instructor who would appear in movies the likes of The Karate Kid??!!??!!

That was it. I was done. I’m fine with authors reimagining ancient or contemporary cultures into similar cultures in their speculative fiction. But when all evidence points to research that extends no further than cursorily watching the type of bad kung fu or propagandist Cold War-era movies that are the staples of fratty college sports teams’ bus entertainment (and I make this comparison from experience), I reserve the right to be pissed off and not finish reading your travesty of a misappropriation of rich cultures and condemn your perpetuation of hurtful stereotypes.

The only thing that tempted to read onwards is more mention of the Darkling, he of the tall, silent, and powerful. But he’s kind of a YA trope as well, and ultimately, my unfounded crush on the mysterious man was not enough to overcome my frustration with the elementary writing no-nos peppering the book. Feel free to give this a try if it intrigues you, but know what you’re getting yourself into.
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,794 reviews27.9k followers
August 30, 2017
4 Stars

So confession:

I originally snagged this book after waiting so long to read it, because I was able to snag it on sale for $1.99 on amazon kindle.

Halfway through reading it, I realized I was really enjoying it...
And I knew I would want to read the rest of the series...
And then I saw how pretty the covers were...
AND they were cheaper than the kindle versions at the time of this review.

So, of course, I bought the last two books in the physical.
And of course, God forbid I have an unfinished set.

description

Geez.

So much for saving money.
Nice work, Val.

description

Anynonsense, this book has been reviewed at length, so I'll keep this brief.

This was for me what I though the first Court book would be. Meaning that it read fast and the story kept me entertained. I was never bored and things never felt tedious. Everything flowed and I was interested cover to cover. I say interested - and not enthralled, mind you, thus why four and not five stars. Also, I could have done with some stronger world building to start.

I have nothing else to add that thousands of other reviewers I'm sure mentioned, so I'll stop here.

I really like Bardugo's writing style and look forward to book two.

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Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,068 reviews38.1k followers
May 24, 2021
OMG! I don’t know if you’d feel the same with me but I just finished the series and entire time ogled Darkling who played by ultra charismatic British actor Benjamin Barnes ! It was amazing to see prologue of Six of Crows ( I intended to bingeread them on weekend) being introduced to Matthias and Nina who also belong to Six of Crows universe! Am I wrong or series absolutely nailed it and is absolutely better than the trilogy!

Why the hell I read this book now? Why did I wait too long? If not for upcoming Netflix release of the book adaptation, I could procrastinate to read it again and cursing myself more! I thought after six of crows I couldn’t read something equally amazing the author has written and again I’m absolutely wrong and wrong!

Delicious world building, riveting premise, powerful characters, unputdownable fast paced and a mind bending ending make you wish you have extra 48 hours to read the entire trilogy!

Alina Starkov, a teenage orphan who is raised in Ravka (the place is inspired by Russia) already planned to my her best friend Mal who is in the King’s first army. The place called Fold filled with darkness, created long time ago is my main topic everyone talks about in Ravka. Everybody scares the hell of that place! There are winged beasts called Volcro lurking around the place to hunt their prey. Those creatures are truly vicious and they have every right to be terrified by them!

But Alina’s life dramatically changes at the mission she and Mal are both sent to the Shadow Mold, she finds out she’s not just an ordinary orphan girl, she has powers, she can produce LIGHT to defeat darkness and saves Mal’s life which means she is a GRISHA. Of course her powers are noticed by Darkling and he decides to take her under his wings to train her Grisha skills properly!

I have to admit Darkling truly steals the show as most charismatic character of the book! Even though the story is told by Alina who is also likable character, I still root for him more!

So when it comes to love triangle, you already know which team I’ll support ( sorry Mal: you’re selfless and so lovable character but I think the charismatic, sexy, surprising Darkling already tempted most of the readers!!)

I have to invent some special machine to bend the time to earn more time for finishing my readings ( maybe Christopher Nolan already invented that machine after making so much mind numbing, complex movies about the relativity of time! Who knows)

Anyways I have still one month to finish them before the release date on Netflix ( I hope I don’t get disappointed just like yesterday after seeing what the producers did to John Marrs’ The One!!!!)

Wish everyone happy weekend with great readings!
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Profile Image for Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink.
257 reviews4,848 followers
January 10, 2019
YOU GUYS WE ARE GETTING A NETFLIX TV SERIES AHHHHHHHH
https://deadline.com/2019/01/netflix-...

I CAN'T BREATHEEEEEE.

If I could give this series 6 stars.. or 7... or 8.... I would. One of my ALL time favorite series. I get so sad when I see people totally skipping this to go to Six of Crows (which I loved, don't get me wrong.) True, it isn't for everyone.. but my gosh it is a work of art. I love everything about this series. (Ps... I'll say it again, but I HIGHLY recommend the audiobooks for enhanced experience.)

For those of you who would like to take the Darkling with you in the car on the way to work in the mornings, or for those of you who want to get a feel for the legit badassery that is this series.. here's a Spotify PLAYLIST!! ;) ;)

So let me try to put my love for this book into a few categories.

Overall Plot + Theme

Alright. I don't want to go over the details of the plot in this review -- because I went into this not knowing one darn thing about it so every single page was a surprise for me! What I will say is this... this book will be a wild ride in a dark fairytale-esque world with unpredictable characters. There is action, magic, romance, intrigue.. and really.. what more could you want from a series? I was absolutely 100% entranced with every page that I read... and that feeling continued with the second and third book.

But I will say this... just when I thought I knew what was going on... just when I thought I was safe... well, Leigh Bardugo, you got me.

THAT PLOT TWIST THO....


AND MY FEELINGS AFTER THAT....


I found myself jumping out of my bed screaming.. LITERALLY screaming... "Run Alina run!!!" or "Give in Alina, just give in!"

The World-building

If I could get stuck in any world from any book- this would be the one. It is vivid, dark, magical, and completely entrancing.

Here's the thing. I've read a lot of negative reviews basing their reasons on the fact that Leigh Bardugo didn't make a convincing Russian world... but my opinion is that his is her world- not actual Russia- she can do whatever she wants! Sure it has Russian inspiration, but it is clearly its own place. Maybe if you are really attached to the Russian language, it would bother you... but my opinion is to leave preconceived notions aside and let this be what it is.

The Characters

Alina, our heroine.

As with many first books, she needs to grow up some. She is fairly naive, but I liked growing up with her through this series. She's very relatable, in my opinion, darn right hysterical. She's very common with familiar insecurities that we all face. She gets a lot of grief for the mistakes she makes in this book... but come on ladies- I think we would all make the same mistakes she makes, if put in her situation. She will always be one of my favorite heroines because of how relatable she is. I adore her.

On that note...

The Darkling


I'm not going to say too much about him other than this. He is without a doubt the most interesting character I've ever read about. Ladies, good luck. Honestly I wish I could put some of my favorite quotes from the book here, but it would spoil.

I can't even go into the rest of the characters without spoiling. Just enjoy trying to predict everyone!

The MAGIC!!

This is my favorite magic system out of any book. I think that stems from me being an artist. The way Leigh describes the powers that some of the characters *cough* have.. its so unique and abstract... like a painting. And classes of magic? Freaking sweet.

The Writing

This series overall is probably the most quotable one out there, in my opinion anyway. Simply gorgeous. And the pacing? I don't know how some people think this is slow... the pace was like.. holy freaking I can't keep up with my emotions...

The AUDIOBOOK!

I don't always recommend the audiobook version of a book to people- but the narrator who does this series is PHENOMENAL. It for sure enhanced my experience of this book 100000%. So yes, I HIGHLY recommend giving the audiobook a go!

So to summarize all of my thoughts...



Thank you Leigh Bardugo for this precious gift. Thank you.

And just a hint for the next book... it may or may not introduce my next all time favorite character...
;) ;) DON'T STOP HERE!!

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Profile Image for She-who-must-not-be-named .
179 reviews1,144 followers
May 7, 2021
It took me exactly two chapters to get invested in the story, but after that I literally gobbled this book. The characters were all well portrayed and watching Alina develop through the course of the story was amazing. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Alina and the Darkling even if it lasted for a very short span of time. I did think that the Darkling was cunning and transparent but I had a glimmering hope that he would eventually come around. But I guess I was wrong.
The terminologies were so confusing, I was oblivious to them even after I read the second book of this series, Siege and Storm. But thankfully, noting things proved to be of help.
Notes:
Grisha: Sorcerers/ Humans that possess magic
There are three types of Grisha:
1) Materialki/ Order of the Fabrikators: Create things from raw materials like steel, textiles, glass, chemicals.
2)Corporalki: Divided into two types:
i)Heartrenders: can slow or accelerate or even stop a person's heartbeat.
ii)Healers : Can heal/repair wounds by speeding up the natural process of healing.
3)Etherealki or Summoners : Divided into three types:
i)Inferni : summon fire
ii) Squallers: summon winds
iii) tidemakers: summon water
Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,545 followers
May 18, 2021
me: the book is always better than the adaptation
shadow and bone tv show: *exists*
me:
me: am i dead or what

—★—

To the gods of adaptations, I thank you for this gem but—whyy. Every chat with people who’ve only watched the show now be like:


—★—

Now, allow me to tell you why the Shadow and Bone TV series did everything I wanted and did not get from the trilogy, fixing all the annoying underdeveloped/problematic parts.

See, the extent to which the Netflix adaptation left this book in the dust is just beyond me. I binged it on April 23rd. Then re-binged it the next day with my friend who has not read any of the Grishaverse books and was excited to see what I was so excited about. And, ladies and gentlemen, it was fantastic. I gave it a 9 out of 10 (and that only for a few budget/lighting/density/camera position issues because I’m picky as hell). It was so phenomenally better that, to me, that’s the actual canon from now on.

Why?

SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK FROM NOW ON.

1) The Darkling is no longer a mustache-twirling shadow of a villain and his potential and humanity is explored.

Look, I don’t care that, in the trilogy, this character is just an idea and a threatening presence who is only charming, manipulative, and treacherous. And yes, I understand that he is guilty of unforgivable crimes. But you know what? I don’t care. Condemn him, punish him, kill him, I’m not gonna stop you—he deserves it. I just don’t care because doing that is simple and what everyone does. What I care about is understanding the humanity, loneliness, craving, anger, vengeance, ambition, vision, and hope smashed together in an obsessive, apathetic control-freak that Leigh Bardugo did not explore and develop because, you know, he is a horrible piece of shet who you should not love or relate to (meanwhile, watch me nod and say yup this dude could very well be me if the circumstances of my upbringing were a little different). I could write an essay on why this is my favourite character in the Grishaverse, but I’ll leave that for later. The point is that the book held back on the potential.

The show, though, has no such hesitations. The developer Eric Heisserer, like my favourite author George RR Martin, cares less about sides and more about conflicting, layered stories which immerse you and make you understand all sides. And Ben Barnes, the actor, is all about finding and delving into the light parts of the dark and the dark in the light—his interviews and performance made it clear he is his parents’ son (two psychiatrists, yes) and the perfect choice for this role. Honestly, episode seven is one of my two top episodes of the show (along with five).

Also, he looks older than Alina and you can see the whole wtf-are-you-doing-be-careful-that-dude-is-old-girl on the screen, which doesn’t brush the issue under the rug.

2) Malyen Oretsev is no longer a whiny self-righteous bastard and instead a caring, awe-inspiring, understanding, open, bold, determined baby and I love him so much is this even real.

That’s it. That’s honestly it. The show did such a good job with fleshing out but him and his bond with Alina that I just wanted to hug them and take them across the world so they could be safe and happy together. He doesn’t blame her over everything and demand she explain how she could betray him like that and their reunion is changed to make it less YA-angsty and more mature and beautiful. Plus, he gets his own heartbreaking adventure and I just wanted to protect him and his friends every step of the way. I can’t believe this happened.

3) Alina Starkov is no longer passive in her own story, reacting to everything and letting everyone else make decisions, standing as a mockery to the feminist movement of having lead female characters, and instead has agency, leading the story with her own choices—be they stupid or smart.

I don’t think that requires more explanation, but I want to add that the fact that she was the one who chose to get on the skiff, made the first move on the Darkling, chose to enter the fête sooner, and aided in her own kidnapping was just perfection. She’s certainly a ray of sunshine.

4) Diversity is no longer lacking and is done even better than Six of Crows, expanded and put at the front and made integral to the plot and the characters’ stories.

Making Alina half-Shu and exploring the discrimination and the person she is because (and despite of) the pain of the hate is incredible and so heartwrenchingly real and my heart was in pieces. Not to mention the many adorable gay boys. And the drag queen. I’m just saying.

5) The plot is no longer bare and the addition of the Crows serves to add so many fun adventures and heists to an otherwise boring story, bringing in fun, complications, meaning, and a less limited setting.

This is definitely the most significant and amazing alteration to the story. All the new material and the ways it took from the dynamics and themes of Six of Crows and made it part of the original tale were managed so perfectly I want to scream.

Nina’s lewd, in-your-face charm stole my heart. Matthias’s closed-yet-open heart bled me dry. Kaz’s cunning, cynical brain and secret warmth made me want to die. Inej’s steadfast faith and fearlessness and the story of her knife made me want to curl up and cry. Even Zoya had early development. And Jesper, oh Jesper stole the show—there are no words for this wild, hilarious, adorable, careless, gunslinging puppy. Thank you for giving me this, Kit Young.

One day, I’ll write a proper review for this book. But for now, I hereby take off my hat for Eric Heisserer and all the cast and crew that brought this world to life with a limited budget and only seven hours. And, I have to say, Netflix bought the full rights to the first two series (meaning they could do whatever they wanted with the characters and stories) but Eric mde sure to include Leigh in the decisions and, while I might have my problems with most of Leigh’s books, this woman has my respect for being open and cooperative when it came to changing so much of what she’d written. Props to her, seriously.

I’mma go now bye.
Profile Image for ~Calliope~.
228 reviews350 followers
January 31, 2023
“I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I'd catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I'd seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I'd realize that you weren't there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I've risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me why we don't belong together," he said fiercely.”


“The problem with wanting," he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, "is that it makes us weak.”


I really liked this book!! What the hell happened? I feel so stupid I did not see that coming!!


So, Alina and Mal grew up together in an orphanage at first and then they both join the military. Alina is in love with Mal but he has no clue. One day, Alina and the other soldiers cross the Shadow Fold, a place that is hunted by volcra(a monster who kill people) they get attacked and Mal was almost killed. Before, they get attacked again, Alina use her powers to save Mal's life (powers she didn't know she had). Because of these powers Alina was taken away by the Darkling(a mysterious and handsome man) to train as a Grisha.So, the important question is:
Mal or the Darkling?


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