Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt Company
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is beautiful.  I love the colors and the interplay of the ribbons with the antlers. 

The Gist:
Alina Starkov is an orphan training as a mapmaker in the King's Army.  When she and her best friend are attacked by a monstrous beast, Alina discovers a power that she never knew she had.  The land's strongest Grisha, the Darkling, takes claim of her and begins training her to banish the darkness of The Fold and save the land.  However, everyone seems to have their own wishes for Alina's power and she must decide carefully where to place her trust. 


Admittedly, I have never been a big fantasy fan.  Shadow and Bone is one of those books that kept popping up on my radar but I never gave in to reading it until my Christmas vacation (lots of time at home/v.little to do).  It took me a while to fall into the world of Ravka, as it usually does with fantasy novels, but I soon found the world building to be rich and beautiful.  This is a land of contrasts, great beauty with great darkness, strong magic with overwhelming poverty.  In telling the story through the eyes of an orphan, we are able to see both sides of the country.

I had some difficulty connecting with Alina.  I found her to be weak and whiny.  I was annoyed by her obsession with beauty and her incessant need to be rescued.  The whole "transformation" from sick and spindly orphan to strong and gorgeous Grisha was clich├Ęd and reinforced the stereotype that only attractive people can be heroines.  I could get past the fact that her super special power remained hidden for most of her life and even the fact that she was suddenly the most super special Grisha alive.  But she couldn't be satisfied with being this special?  She still had to whine about not being pretty enough?  Dude, you can command light and you are whining about your complexion?

The other characters were a bit one dimensional.  There was the "I won't notice you until you are super special and gorgeous" love interest.  The "I'm dark and mysterious and can see the power under your ugliness" love interest.  The "I'm totally gorgeous but totally humble at the same time" BFF.  The "I'm only mean because I can see your potential" trainer and the "I'm also totally gorgeous and a jealous bitch" rival.  Neither of the love interests felt quite genuine or passionate to me and the friends didn't play any important role - though I hope they get some fleshing out in the next book.

The plot moved steadily except for a bit of lag in the middle as Alina worked with her power and learned to fight in what transformed in my head to an 80s movie montage set to the sound of "Eye of the Tiger".  The writing was beautiful and the ending was strong enough to make me come back for the second installment Siege and Storm in June.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay, Death of an animal, Deaths by magic/magical creatures
Inappropriate Language: Ass, Bitch
Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking


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