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Shadow and Bone

Review

Shadow and Bone

Alina Starkov has grown up in the shadow of war. Orphaned at a young age, Alina has found comfort in her best friend, Malyen Oretsev, or Mal. This comfort has carried them through the most difficult of times and is the binding force in their relationship when they come of age and enlist in the service to fight for their country, Ravka. Ravka has never gotten along with its neighbors, but the real plague on the country is a mysterious swath of land located smack dab in the middle called the Shadow Fold. The Shadow Fold is impenetrable darkness and full of flesh-eating creatures. The only people brave enough to enter are the Grisha, the magical elite.

"[T]he Shadow Fold is a thing of beauty, and every time the characters venture inside, I couldn’t put the book down. SHADOW AND BONE is a truly unique coming-of-age fantasy adventure that you will want to add to your summer reading list."

The Grisha are a puzzle in and of themselves and are led by the even more mysterious person known as the Darkling. Normally, Alina and Mal would have nothing to do with the Grisha, but when they join a convoy to cross the Shadow Fold and are attacked, some mysterious power long held dormant by Alina is revealed. Without any warning, Alina is torn away from Mal and everything she knows, and is whisked away to the capital to train as a Grisha. The Darkling believes Alina is the answer to his prayers and may be the only person to save Ravka from the Shadow Fold.

Pampered by luxury and a newfound popularity, Alina struggles to become accustomed to the Grisha way of life. Despite her apprehensiveness --- and her longing for Mal --- she starts to hone her skill as a sun summoner. She is able to call upon light to push back any amount of darkness, and soon is the talk of the king’s court and perhaps the only hope for the country. The Darkling has also taken a great interest in Alina, and although confused by his advances, she can’t help but be swept up by his charm.

Just when Alina starts believing she is destined to save Ravka from the Shadow Fold, Mal reappears. He brings some unsettling news to Alina, who immediately starts to question everything that has happened. The problem is that the entire country is depending on her, and if she doesn’t know who or what to trust, what hope is there?

Debut novelist Leigh Bardugo has done her homework. There is a little bit of everything mixed in: folklore, dangerous creatures and strong characterization. The world of Alina and Mal is one filled with mysterious and supernatural forces, but they don’t seem forced. Like all good fantasies, the magical elements blend naturally into the background, and the heart of the story is found in the characters themselves. With that said, the Shadow Fold is a thing of beauty, and every time the characters venture inside, I couldn’t put the book down. SHADOW AND BONE is a truly unique coming-of-age fantasy adventure that you will want to add to your summer reading list.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on June 28, 2012

Shadow and Bone
(Grisha Trilogy #1)
by Leigh Bardugo