Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pages: 356

Series: The Grisha Trilogy, Book 1; Grishaverse, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult; Fantasy; Romance; Magic; Paranormal

Publication date: June 5, 2012

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Surrounded by enemies, the once great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness that just so happens to be crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. To make matters worse, Ravka’s fate now rests on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. When her regiment is attacked in the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life. A power that could very well be the key to saving their war ravaged country.

Wrenched away from everything she’s ever known, Alina is whisked to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha – the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing this lavish is as it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her to succeed, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and her own heart.

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“Alina isn’t… She couldn’t…” Mal shook his head. “We’re from the same… village.” I noticed that tiny pause, the orphan’s pause. “If she could do anything like that, I would know.”

Chapter Three, Page 48

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As the Shadow and Bone series is coming to Netflix today – April 23rd – I have to give these books a reread. While I planned on devouring this entire trilogy – and the Six of Crows duology – in time to dive into this series, I ended up prioritizing other reads this month instead. So far I’ve only read Shadow and Bone, and I hope that’s good enough to start watching the series when I get home from work this evening.

I personally adore reading the book/s before watching the show or movie adaptation so I want to make sure that I’ve refreshed my memory on this story before giving the show a watch. It’s been years since I read these books for the first time, so I only had a vague memory of the events in the book before diving back in.

That being said, I fully understand that these will be two separate things since the show will be dealing with both series at the same time. I look forward to seeing the ways in which the series differs from the books, to see how merging the two storylines togethers – and the entire Grishaverse – brings more life to the books. I hope that I’m able to keep an open mind when I watch the show as I can’t wait to see these books come to life.

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*Spoilers ahead*

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“You have to listen to me,” I gasped as I struggled to keep up with his long strides. “I’m not Grisha. I’m a mapmaker. I’m not even a very good map maker.”

Chapter Three, Page 53

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I have to admit, I remember liking the Darkling a lot more than I did during this reread. While I’m not saying that I wanted Alina to leave Mal alone and forget her love for him as if it never happened, I do remember thinking that this story did the Darkling dirty. Yet so far I don’t see any reason as to why I would have felt that way for the last x number of years.

Don’t get me wrong, at the end of this book there’s still space to have hope for the Darkling. He’s learned what it means to want someone other than yourself, to want to be with someone for more than just physical gratification. Alina might not see mercy in his actions, but for someone as dark and twisted as the Darkling, he showed her a lot of mercy. He let her have that one final night with Mal before offering him up to the Volcra, did not truly punish her for sneaking out of the Little Palace and running away from him. Sure she was tied up and made a slave, but as someone with a dark soul who’s known to never give mercy to his opposition the Darkling sure gave Alina a lot of leeway.

Yet during this readthrough I enjoyed the relationship between Alina and Mal more than I did the first time. I no longer felt like Mal was acting childishly and pouting that his toy got taken away from him and that was the only reason that he had feelings for Alina. I could finally see that he was too close to the situation – too close to Alina – to realize that he had feelings for her. He wasn’t being childish and being upset that his “toy” was no longer there when he wanted it. It took him being removed from the situation – being removed from Alina’s company – to realize what he’d had and didn’t realize.

Maybe it’s because I’m more grown up now myself, and maybe it’s because I’ve read enough romance books now to see the merit of the whole “not knowing what you have until it’s gone” trope, but I liked the fact that Alina and Mal got together this time. As far as love triangles go, this one has completely changed my mind and I’m much happier now to see Alina and Mal getting together.

My thoughts on the love triangle aside, I didn’t enjoy this readthrough as much as I remembered enjoying the story the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed my time in this world and look forward to continuing on my readthrough of this world. But my rating of this story did go down from a 4 star enjoyment to a 3 star enjoyment.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently read stories that I’ve enjoyed much more than Shadow and Bone, and perhaps it’s because I know I adore Bardugo’s writing so much more in the Six of Crows duology. I know that this was Bardugo’s first book to be published, so it makes sense that I enjoyed her later stories more. I’m looking forward to continuing on with this world, and my enjoyment of the stories just continuing to grow.

More happened in this story than I remembered. I remembered Alina running away from the Darkling with Baghra’s help, but I thought it happened later in the series. I remembered the king getting sick, but I thought it happened later. I remembered Genya betraying Alina’s friendship because of her loyalty to the Darkling, but again, I thought it happened later.

And then there were things that I thought had happened in this book that have yet to take place. I won’t be listing any of those things out, because that would be spoilers for further books in the series, but there were a couple things that I was surprised to not read. The first time I read this series, I read all three books back to back so it makes sense that the chronology of events is switched around in my brain. I can’t wait to see the series of events unravel as the story progresses, untangling the web that’s in my brain. To see just how out of order my memory actually is.

While I knew that this story covered the events in relation to Alina getting the stag’s antlers as her amplifier, for some reason I thought that was where the story ended. I didn’t remember Alina running off with Mal in order to find the stag herself, I truly thought that she’d gone alone with the Darkling’s plans until it was too late. I knew that she found the ability to combat the Darkling’s power over her in regards to the collar, but I thought that it was a slow burn, something that would come into play in the next book. I was expecting to read about Baghra helping Alina out of the Little Palace in Siege and Storm once she’d figured out how to overcome the Darkling’s control over her amplifier. To say I was shocked about how things played out is an understatement.

My heart broke a little for Alina, thinking she finally had a friend in Genya only to have her turn her back on her when the Darkling held her prisoner. She finally thought that she had someone she could rely on aside from Mal, but Genya’s loyalty to the Darkling was stronger. He might have been the one to gift Genya to the royal family as their tailor, but he was also the one that allowed her her full Grisha rights and her kafta at the end.

While there’s so much more I could talk about in regards to this story, I’m finding it hard to get my thoughts out without accidentally talking about the events in the rest of the series. With the tangled web of events in my mind, I don’t want to accidentally spoil something for the later books. And that is why I will be ending my review here. As the story progresses I’ll probably retroactively talk about the events in this book, but for now that’s everything. These are my confusing thoughts on Shadow and Bone, just in time for the Netflix adaptation to begin.

Here’s to the rest of the series – the rest of this world – getting better and better as each book goes on.

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