Mithrendiel's Reviews > Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
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Apr 19, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult-fantasy
Recommended to Mithrendiel by: Kat Kennedy

Shadow and Bone transports you into a world as fantastic as it is dark. The story takes place in a snow bound version of ancient Russia, a land haunted shadows and demons. There are things that lurk in the dark places of this world that thirst for blood and dream of rending flesh. The world building here was nothing short of breath taking. Every scene in the book was perfectly drawn out in beautiful language. Leigh’s prose transports you through the pages of her book into the world she created. Her characters possess magic that is both unique and beautifully cinematic. Skeins of shadow shoot out from clasped hands, engulfing and consuming enemies. Characters explode in blazing white light, piercing darkness, and rending creatures of shadow.

There are layers upon layers and twists galore in the plot of this novel. The story is complex and intricate. Alina’s training takes her into the capitol city, where childlike and corrupt king sits on the throne beside a vapid queen. Hovering behind the king like a spider is a seemingly mad priest with his own agenda. Then we have The Darkling, the most powerful Grisha (mage) alive, who also controls the military. All these players seem to be vying for power, struggling for control. It’s left to us as readers to distinguish the puppets from the puppet masters. The villains from the saviors.

While Shadow and Bone’s greatest strengths lie in its world and intricate plot, I felt its greatest failing was Alina herself. She felt weak to me. There’s a fine line between writing characters with failings that serve as growth opportunities and writing characters so weak they frustrate the reader. Ultimately we expect characters in fantasy stories to have something heroic in their nature. They may be flawed and broken, but there’s something about them (who they are not just the powers they wield) that makes them epic, and worthy of our admiration. Alina had amazing powers, but there was nothing about her that inspired me, or made filled me with admiration. I’m not saying she was unlikeable, she just wasn’t heroic. She fights her destiny tooth and nail in the beginning, insisting she possesses no magical powers, despite all evidence to the contrary. There’s a point in her training where she just gives up trying, complaining that things are just too hard. Over and over the story throws challenges her way, obstacles to be overcome, and she consistently backs down, gives up, or fails. Sadly, the greatest success she experiences was one that seemed almost accidental, a challenge she fails but a twist of fate ends up turning her defeat into a victory. As a character reader, that appreciates strong heroines, this element of the story seemed like a failing, thus Alina is the main reason I gave Shadow and Bone four stars instead of a resounding 5.

While Alina did not resonate with me, I’m happy to report I loved all of the other characters. The strongest most well developed and interesting character in this story is the Darkling. He’s centuries old, powerful, and deliciously mysterious. His motivations are difficult to ferret out and his aims are unclear. I spent an entire book getting to know his character, but still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what makes him tick. He’s an incredibly complex man. One moment he’s warning Alina to not expect fairness from him. The next he shows surprising tenderness and even kindness. He seems to care what Alina thinks about him, and even seems hurt by careless things she says. He is drawn to her and at the same time repelled by his own feelings. He’s dark, multifaceted, and utterly fantastic.

The romance in this story is full of as many twists and turns as the plot, and it’s another area where the story didn’t quite work for me (at least in the beginning). There is a love triangle but it’s executed in a way that spares you the most painful and annoying elements of triangles. There’s never a time when both men are actively fighting over Alina. Darkling is of course one of the contenders to Alina’s heart (and my favorite). The other leg of the triangle is Alina’s childhood friend Mal. He starts the story as a womanizer that barely recognizes Alina as a member of the female species, much less a desirable part of that species. He’s her friend but nothing more. Mal’s inability to really see and appreciate her did little to endear him to me. All the while, Alina nurses a hopeless and unrequited crush on him. Long after their paths part, she’s still pining after him. We’re talking 50% of the book here, people. While I understood the reasons Alina loved Mal (they were orphans together and he was the only constant in her life growing up), I was never given a chance to love him as a reader. The book opens with them traveling together but her training separates them almost immediately. So her pining for him was more annoying than heartwarming. Fortunately we do get a chance to get to know Mal a bit better later in the story, and he ends up being a pretty fantastic character, but I’m still going to keep rooting for Darkling because he was the one I got to know and care for first(view spoiler).

Shadow and Bone really is a fantastic story that deserves 100% of the acclaim it has received. I’m still haunted by visions frozen forests and the chilling reaches of the Shadow Fold. Despite my relatively minor character complaints, I loved the story and will gladly read it again. I’ll also be counting the days until the sequel.
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Reading Progress

April 19, 2012 – Shelved
August 3, 2012 – Started Reading
August 3, 2012 – Shelved as: young-adult-fantasy
August 3, 2012 – Finished Reading
June 6, 2013 –
24.0% "Re-reading in preperation for picking up Siege and Storm. And god, I'd forgotten how much I loved the Darling!!!"

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy This one is on my list to read, I have heard so many wonderful things about it. Can't wait to start it! Are you enjoying it?

Mithrendiel I finished it this morning, and I really did enjoy it. The world was completely amazing. The plot was intricate and chalk full of some pretty impressive twists. I adored Darkling (one of the love interests). However the heroine felt a bit weak to me. She didn't feel heroic. I'm definitely a "character reader" though so I tend to be more critical of characters than any other element. I also prefer strong, if broken protagonist, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I've got a massive review already written for it, but I need to trim it down a bit before posting. I'll get it up some time this weekend.

I'd definitely move this one up in your reading list though if you are in the mood for a beautifully written epic fantasy story.

message 3: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy This one sounds great and just what I am in the mood for. I am a character reader too. I bring them all to life in my head. If their written poorly then I get frustrated. Well I have moved this one up my pile, think I will take it on the trip with me. Look forward to your review:)

Ikhlas I had the same feelings about Mal. I felt like I wasn't really given an opportunity to root for or care for him, like I was for the Darkling. And that's why I kinda am still rooting for him hehe

Mithrendiel YAY - I can't wait to hear what you think, Cindy. :)

Ikhlas - I'm glad to hear from another Darkling fan. :) The fact that we are both rooting for Darkling so strongly (view spoiler) is a testament to Leigh's writing skills I think. I'm so curious to see where the author takes his story in the next book. (view spoiler)

Dina Just started reading this...been listening to good reviews bout this book just like, here I come xoxoxo

Mithrendiel wooohoooo! What do you think so far?

message 8: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy I need to read this soon I can tell you both have me so very curious:)

Mithrendiel LOL I do think you'd like this one, Cindy. :) But I know what it is like to have SO many books on your To Read list. Imo, the Darkling is the reason to read this series. He's just so... magically delicious! ;)

message 10: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy LOL! I like that:D

message 11: by Dina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dina Mal-darkling-mal-darkling...I keep doing this back and forth that I'm reading book 2: mal-darkling-nikolai Lol...

message 12: by Mithrendiel (last edited Jun 25, 2013 10:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mithrendiel LOL I dislike Mal. He didn't want Alina (barely even realized she was a girl even) until she got all Grisha hot. Then in book 2 he's all jealous and selfish. He doesn't want Alina to use her power, he just wants her to be a normal person, which tells me he doesn't accept her as she is. There's a part later in the book that really pissed me off with him too - you'll know it when you see it.

Now Nikolai I adore, and I still love Darkling. (view spoiler)

message 13: by Dina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dina Haven't finished book 2 yet but I understand what you mean lol...gosh, you're rite about Mal. And this Nikolai guy is so sarcastic lol, I like him...btw have you guys heard about The Plagiarizing of Tammara Webber’s Easy by JordinBWilliams (book : amazingly broken)? See this link :

message 14: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy I know it is crazy! Saw it yesterday, and the book is not up on amazon anymore. It's to bad she didn't let her own talent shine. Uncool to steal someone else's, and it usually comes back to bite you.

Mithrendiel I hadn't heard about that! Whow - it saddens me when obviously talented authors copy other's works. As much as I loved Jennifer Armentrout - her Half-Blood series is almost a book-by-book rip off of Vampire Academy. And even her Lux series bares a disturbing resemblance to the I am Number Four universe. Then there is Bared to You which is very similar to Fifty Shades of Grey. However, I forgave Ms. Day her plagiarism because her book was just so much better than Fifty.

I know I'm not an author, but from where I'm sitting it seems like coming up with the ideas for stories should be the easy part. The hard part is getting those ideas in print in an engaging and cohesive fashion. So why plagiarize? I just don't get it.

Mithrendiel Dina wrote: "Haven't finished book 2 yet but I understand what you mean lol...gosh, you're rite about Mal. And this Nikolai guy is so sarcastic lol, I like him...

Oh and on the topic of Seige and Mal... So which guy do you like best now, Dina? :)

message 17: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy Mithrendiel wrote: "I hadn't heard about that! Whow - it saddens me when obviously talented authors copy other's works. As much as I loved Jennifer Armentrout - her Half-Blood series is almost a book-by-book rip off..."

I totally agree doesn't make any since. I forgive Ms. Day to hers is better:P I have already reread that series a couple of times,lol:D

message 18: by Dina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dina Mithrendiel, I know, im totally support Tammara Webber, i cant imagine her feeling.
well, I'm a bit disappointed to mal in book 2, he even kissed Zoya? Hate him! But, theyre best friend, and the way they acted around each other are sweet and their feelings for each other are overwhelming, and heart wrenching...The darkling, gosh, he strongly pulled me and kept me glued to his darkness. Hard for me to pick one, gosh, I like them both...
And yes, armentrout's covenant series are so similar to VA, that's not original

Cindy, so true! did he think no one would notice? The book actually no 58 of amazon bestselling, insane! It's because "Easy" was too awesome, lol

Mithrendiel Dina: YES!! The kissing scene was the one I was hinting at when I mentioned there was a part where Mal made me mad. Ugg. It really seems like the author wants us to dislike him. So ya, I'm putting my team support behind Darkling with Nikolai being a close second. <3

Cindy: I've reread the first book of Ms. Day's series numerous times, and I doubt I’ll ever re-read Fifty, so ya, I that’s one instance of plagiarism I can support. :D I was less of a fan of book 2 though. Gideon is still yummy though.

message 20: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy Mithrendiel wrote: "Dina: YES!! The kissing scene was the one I was hinting at when I mentioned there was a part where Mal made me mad. Ugg. It really seems like the author wants us to dislike him. So ya, I'm putting ..."

I agree no desire to read fifty again. I liked the first and third books the best. Yes he is delicious hehehehe:P

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