Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Alina Starkov discovers that she is a Sun Summoner, the only one of her kind in the Grisha world and the only hope of destroying the Shadow Fold.
The Nitty Gritty
Alina is preparing to cross the Shadow Fold along with other members of the First and Second Army. While going through the fold, they are attacked by the monsters who live within and in attempting to protect her best friend Mal, Alina unleashes a power within herself that no one knew was there. She is a Sun Summoner and the Darkling is very interested in her abilities. He whisks her off to his castle where she begins training her abilities so that she will soon be strong enough to, hopefully, destroy the Shadow Fold.
Alina Starkov- the Sun Summoner; an orphan who's only family consists of her best friend, Mal.
Mal Oretsev- Alina's best friend since childhood; he is strong and good at what he does in the First Army. He is very different, personality wise, from Alina but they have a very close bond.
The Darkling- second in command only to the king; he is a powerful Grisha that everyone fears and yet strives to get the attention of.
The twist at the end was great! When Alina is being told about what's really happening (I'm trying to keep this as vague as possible to avoid spoilers) she didn't initially believe it and neither did I. I didn't want to believe that it was real. The way the book ends was absolutely amazing! Power. Power. Power. That's all I'm going to say about that.
I went into this book not really knowing anything about it. I'm sure I read the synopsis at some point before I added it to my TBR shelf on Goodreads but that was many years ago and I've forgotten it since. All I remembered was that Shadow and Bone is a high fantasy novel that incorporates some Russian culture. That was it. I'm so glad that I didn't know much more than that because it made the book that much more enjoyable. (Something I've been realizing lately, books are more fun when you don't know what to expect.) I had no expectations and everything was new and surprising and exciting.
It was off to a good start right from page 2 where that cute scene occurs between a young boy and girl. It goes like this. The boy and the girl are hiding in the shadows listening to a conversation that some adults are having about them. Someone refers to the girl as being ugly and the boy whispers "I don't think you're ugly." The girl tells him to shush so they can hear the conversation but she's secretly smiling at what the boy said. It was so cute.
I loved Mal and Alina's friendship from the beginning. These two have history, the kind that makes them almost inseparable. They've shared a lot together and though, now, they have other friends in the army, they still have that connection and no one will be able to break it.
The Darkling is a dark (no pun intended) and mysterious character. His abilities allow him to summon darkness, like the kind that is found in the Shadow Fold. He is also a Summoner and the only one of his kind, just like Alina. Because of this, he decides to separate Alina from the rest of the Grisha and associate her with himself. There is a romance budding between Alina and the Darkling and I was totally rooting for them. I know, it's disaster waiting to happen but I can't help it!
The Overall Opinion
There isn't a ton of world building in this novel which makes it great for people who have a hard time getting into high fantasy or want to just test the waters first. The world building isn't extensive and I know that this has been a common critique from Shadow and Bone but, personally, I didn't mind it. I didn't feel like we needed to explore the world a little more, at least not yet. The things that were happening in this novel were more about Alina and her figuring out her powers and what she's going to do with them than what it means in the long run for the world she lives in. I think we'll be seeing more of this world in the next two books but for now, we were given what we needed, nothing more and nothing less.
Leigh Bardugo does a great job setting up for a lot of character development that I hope/expect to see in the next book. Alina has now discovered the potential of her powers, not just the Sun Summoning but her powers as an individual as well. It will be interesting to see where this goes and how this taste of power is or isn't going to change her. Same goes for the Darkling. I don't think (semi-spoiler alert) anyone has ever defied him before or stood up to him in that way so it will interesting to see how he reacts. Mal is a character that I don't really know what to think as far where he's going to go in the rest of the books. He wasn't really a central character in this book and his experiences are dwarfed by those of Alina and the Darkling. Maybe Mal will come to play a much bigger part in Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.
I'm really excited to continue this series! I wish I'd started it long long ago. I guess the good news is that I won't have to wait a year in between books. I can just marathon the last two.
One Last Thing
Since reading this book has made me a fan of Leigh Bardugo in general, I feel like it's my responsibility to share with you the news that Ms. Bardugo has a brand new book from a brand new series coming out next year. The book is called The Dregs and will be released sometime in the later part of 2015 (I think). It takes place in the "Grishaverse" and sounds just plain awesome so make sure to add it to your Goodreads shelf!