Publisher: Henry Holt
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Source of my copy: publisher
Series: Grisha Trilogy #1
Other title: The Gathering Dark (UK)
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and the secrets of her heart.
When I first heard of Shadow and Bone I knew it was a book I had to read. It just sounded so good and I was especially excited about the Russian influence. I am very happy that this novel did not disappoint. I did have some minor issues but overall it was a fantastic start to the Grisha trilogy and I cannot wait for the next book.
Initially, the thing that drew me to this book was the Russian aspect of the novel. For some reason, before reading the novel, I thought the novel was set in an alternate magical Russia and that we'll see familiar Russian historical figures. But that is not it at all. Ravka is a unique world with Russian influences in fashion, food, furnishings and language--which was still fun to read about but I was expecting something more.
I liked Alina's character. Before her power was revealed, there's nothing really special about her and she can easily get lost in the crowd. She's an orphan, lonely and not sure of her place in the world. The only person she can talk to is her best friend Mal but lately she feels awkward around him because she likes him as more than a friend but he did not seem to share her feelings. I like the way her character grew from that unsure girl to a more confident, strong (both personally and physically) woman.
However, Alina was hardly the most interesting character here. There were a lot of dark and mysterious characters in this novel like the Darkling and the Apparat (in my mind he looks like Rasputin) and you are not quite sure what they're about. Are they good and trustworthy? Or do they have a different agenda? I like not knowing and having to figure them out along with Alina.
There is a sort of love triangle and usually I dislike them but here it is not your typical love triangle. I don't want to elaborate because it will be spoiler-y but I am curious if the author will do something more with it in the second book. (Read the book and you'll see what I mean!)
The novel did start a little awkwardly. I didn't quite know where the author was going to take the introduction of the characters and the world. It also took me a little while to work out and understand what the Grisha army was all about and its hierarchy (the chart included in the beginning of the novel did help). However, once you get past all that it was pretty much smooth sailing. I couldn't stop reading and kept on until the wee hours of the morning.
Shadow and Bone is immensely readable. The ending is satisfying yet you definitely want more. This novel is an excellent start to a new addicting fantasy series. It will leave readers hooked and eagerly awaiting the release of book two.