Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Date: June 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
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Originally published in the UK as The Gathering Dark.
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.
I originally read this book when it debuted last year and loved it. Shadow and Bone had everything I wanted in a fantasy—a uniquely imagined world, fantastic characters, and great writing. After having the pleasure of re-reading the book recently (thanks to the lovely team at Indigo’s 2-in-1 mega ARC), I need to caps, bold and add an exclamation mark to my original assessment: I LOVED IT! I know it’s hard to imagine, but it was even better the second time around.
Shadow and Bone is the story of Alina Starkov, an orphan girl who finds out she’s so much more. She is Grisha, a master of the Small Science and a very special one at that—someone gifted with the unique ability to stop the Shadow Fold, a dark wasteland that blocks the country’s only access to the True Sea.
I found the world of Ravka genuinely fascinating. It’s been said countless times but it is extremely rare to find a fantasy book set in a place that isn’t reminiscent of medieval England. This book brought tsar-punk into our lexicon, which is a magical mix of military fur, snow-covered forests, mysterious regal animals and smouldering men in black. Plus I really want one of those Grisha kefta robes to lounge around in.
Also, I can’t remember the last time I read a book with such a charming cast of characters. Alina’s self-doubt combined with her low threshold for taking crap from others makes a really entertaining combination. I instantly rooted for her and her self-deprecating humour. The book also brought us The Darkling, the perfect anti-villain who oozed charisma and power. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t seduced by his dark charm. I also held a soft spot for Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend, whose friendliness and easy-going way made him instantly likable. And even with them all, my favourite character was gorgeous, confident Genya. I wanted to be her AND be her best friend. She’s like a silk dress boned with a corset of steel—beautiful and fierce. I really loved her friendship with Alina and her unique position in the palace.
The writing is wonderfully rich. Bardugo has a knack for immersing you completely in her world within seconds and keeping you glued to the page with her compelling story. The dialogue was simply delightful—from the sarcastic snark, to the declarations of love, to the world-changing proclamations—all infused with that twinkle of humour and passion that Bardugo has in spades. The book is so damn quotable that it is impossible for me to pick my favourite.
If you haven’t read Shadow and Bone yet, I hope this review has given you enough reasons to do so. If you still aren’t convinced, let me take you out for some kvas and let’s talk.