Sunday, August 19, 2012

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Grisha Trilogy #1)
Henry Holt, 2012

Fantasy novels sweep us off to places that are full of possibilities that seem so incredibly impossible after childhood. Magical abilities, strange creatures, the epic battle of good versus evil can capture us and make us consider questions that are still very much relevant in the land of ordinary people.

A proud member of the Harry Potter generation, I'm so glad that I grew up with fantasy and so much wonder around every corner. However, I must admit it was challenging to really find an equally gripping and still relatable fantasy story ever since.

But then I read Shadow and Bone, and I was back.

Jenn Bosworth (author of Struck),
me, and Leigh on the Fierce Reads Tour
The land of Ravka (think 1800s tsarist Russia) is plagued by the Darkness, an ugly streak across the land that destroys nearly everything that dares to try to cross it. But Alina, a plain and unremarkable map maker with the army, her handsome childhood best friend Mal, and the other soldiers have no choice - the Darkness stands between the main cities and the sea ports where supplies for the country are. During their unit's first attempted crossing, Alina unleashes a power she never knew she possessed and she's sent off to be trained as a Grisha, one of the elite and masters of the Small Science. Under the watchful (and hungry) eye of the Darkling, the one in charge of all Grisha, Alina learns about her special abilities, the truth behind the shroud of lies all of Ravka have been told, and that she may be the only one who can set her country free.

It's mind boggling to me that this is Bardugo's debut novel because it blew me away page after page after page. I mean, having the dark be the thing that everyone fears and needs to be fought and destroyed? Genius! It's something that's instantly identifiable for so many people. The world building was exquisite as well. I don't know much about Russia, but I had no trouble picturing this rich landscape, from the sparse orphanage where Alina and Mal are raised to the decadent palaces where the Grisha are. The characters are all well drawn, leaving me with strong impressions of each one. I identified so incredibly strongly with Alina so much so that I feel like Bardugo must have stolen my journal when writing this character.

And like I said before, this is fantasy that takes on the questions of ordinary people. Themes of beauty and how much your appearance matters are delicately woven into the story as are points like knowing who you can really trust, finding your inner strength, and what is worth fighting for. I wish I could say more about this amazing book, but for fear of spoiling it, I'm restraining myself and instead am giving it my highest recommendation.

This is the first installment in the Grisha Trilogy and I'm waiting in agony for what is to come next. If you like fantasy, trust me, Shadow and Bone is a novel you don't want to pass up.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Leigh Bardugo's Website
Leigh Bardugo on Twitter

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