fantasy

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

If you haven’t already read this trilogy, then you might be considering it in anticipation of the upcoming screen adaptation. I know I certainly did, and after making my way through the Grishaverse, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to seeing Leigh Bardugo’s amazing characters on screen. But for now I’ll stick to reviewing Shadow and Bone – the first book of the series. 

There was, and is, plenty of hype surrounding the Grishaverse, and for this reason I expected to be thrown into a huge and convoluted fantasy world that I wouldn’t want to leave for a long while. Unfortunately, I felt that Shadow and Bone fell a little short of its reputation, and had to toss up between 3 ½  and 4 stars. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it though. Bardugo’s stellar writing and incredible characters had me hooked and I finished the first novel the very same day I started it. So, I waited a week, grabbed my fine-tooth comb, and took a good long look beyond the great writing and into the nitty-gritty details to find what didn’t quite do it for me. 

Blurb:

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.

Pros:

Ah, the characters. Doesn’t it always come down to the characters? Shadow and Bone offers a variety of different personalities and motivations that really held my attention, even in moments where the plot didn’t feel particularly strong. Alina was a humble, funny, and overall likeable main character, who really nailed the fish-out-of water routine. The mystery surrounding The Darkling had me flying through the pages in an attempt to just learn more, and the unique side-characters were both refreshing and offered a subtle and genius way of world-building. The only negative I can think of is centred around personal preference – I don’t often enjoy the ‘chosen one’ trope or love triangles, but for the characters and writing alone, I would have given Shadow and Bone five stars!

Another thing I really enjoyed was Ravka – the fictional setting. It’s not often that I find fantasy worlds based on Tsarist Russia and it was also really interesting to see the dynamic between ‘commoners’ and the Grisha. Speaking of the Grisha, magic is always going to be a plus in my books. Bardugo’s take on magic, or the ‘small science’ as it’s referred to, is unique and fascinating. I was left with a lot of questions about these powers, but that just made me want to read a whole lot more! 

Can never resist a good map!

Cons:

There were points in the book where I thought an author of Bardugo’s caliber could have dealt with a bit better. Without giving too much away, there is a moment near the end where a huge (or it should have been huge but fell a little flat due to minimal build-up) epiphany is had. Not only did it feel too sudden, but it also allowed Alina to bypass one of the major points of conflict in the story in a way that made me feel a little cheated – considering how much of a problem this particular situation was made out to be throughout the novel. Super vague, I’m sorry! 

Additionally, the ending wasn’t quite what I expected. While it definitely raised a million questions that had me eager to read book two, I again felt that the resolution was too sudden to enjoy. Even in a world of fantasy it didn’t feel entirely believable, or logical, in my opinion. I hope I don’t give too much away by saying this, but it’s the main thing that kept me from giving Shadow and Bone a higher rating. I have never enjoyed seeing a protagonist develop incredible amounts of power out of thin air. The best part of a hero’s journey for me is watching them struggle and fight their way up to being someone who genuinely stands a chance against a powerful villain. While I could see that in the early stages of the book with Alina’s training, I was disappointed in the end.

But!

I really did enjoy my first look into the Shadow and Bone trilogy and I even snatched up the Six of Crows duology and King of Scars for good measure! Anyone looking to give the Grishaverse a go, don’t be too dissuaded unless any of the things I mentioned above are absolute deal-breakers. Bardugo’s writing makes for a really easy and enjoyable read, and Shadow and Bone was a promising start to a trilogy I have no doubt I’ll read again. As always, please let us know your thoughts below!  

//Have you read the Shadow and Bone Trilogy? Which book was your favourite?//

Nen

25 thoughts on “Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review

  1. I have zero interest in reading this. I picked up six of crows in the library. Read the first page and put it straight back on the shelf…didn’t like the writing at all lol! The only Bardugo I have read to completion is Wonderwoman and happy bedfellows we did not make 🙈😂 Why do I always have these types of opinions lol 😂😂😂 Its a great review though. I’m glad you’re getting on board with the hype and are enjoying this pre the tv show <3333

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    1. That’s completely fair! I love reading your opinions to be honest, because I feel like a lot of people (me) don’t like something in the moment but when they look back on it it doesn’t seem too bad…even if it is haha! Some of the plot bothered me more than I let on and I ranted to Jen about it for a solid 15 minutes until I just accepted it 😂 haven’t read SoC yet but I know in this trilogy the POV changes after the prologue and that was for the better, so fingers crossed for Six of Crows haha! If not, I only came here for Ben Barnes anyway 😆 Thanks for reading and commenting (and sorry for chatting your ear off!) 😁 – Nen

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  2. *bounces up and down* I NEEEEED TO READ THIS
    i’m normally not a fantasy reader at all but something about this just makes me want to jump right in. this is such a well detailed fantastic review my love.

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    1. Thank you so much!! I’m a big fan of fantasy. Shadow and Bone was a decent book, maybe not the strongest in terms of plot, but well-written! I really hope you enjoy it 😁 please let me know if you do give it a go, I’d love to hear your thoughts! – Nen

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  3. Great review, Nen! I read this one so long ago that I have to admit that I don’t remember much of it (back in the days before I had review writing to help my ailing memory lmao) 😂 But I do remember enjoying it and the whole series, but especially the SoC duology! I’m definitely planning a re-read before the show is out. Hope you enjoy the rest of the books 🙂

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    1. Hey hey! Thank you 😊 writing these certainly forces me to remember way more than I ever would before haha! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where the series goes. If you need someone to geek over the show with, you know where to find me! 😆 – Nen

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  4. Great review! I have read this series but it just didn’t work for me. I’m not really a fan of Bardugo’s writing and have tried Six of Crows too. I still haven’t picked up Crooked Kingdom but I’m just the odd one out, lol. I know a lot of people who love all her books.

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    1. Thank you! It’s really interesting to see some of these comments because it seems like a love it or hate it kind of series and I hadn’t expected that! I’m not really big on the plot, but I’m hoping things get a bit better 😊

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  5. I’m so glad you enjoyed this book Nen!! It was my favorite of the trilogy and induced some high hopes. Quite a polarizing read but I adored it, finished it in a day, immediately clamored for the sequel at the time lol. It was a few months ago but still remember that vividly. Really excited for the adaptation now.

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    1. Pretty much summed my experience up in that one comment haha! I’m excited to read on, and see how the show develops! 😊 I’m here for fangirling if you need anyone 😆

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  6. This trilogy is an easy, kind of average read – but necessary as background knowledge for reading Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. That duology blew my mind. It’s a different narrative style than this trilogy, much grittier and more detailed, and the characters have complex backstories that are revealed cleverly throughout the story. I treated the Shadow and Bone trilogy the same way I treated Court of Thorns and Roses book one – necessary to get to the good stuff!!!

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  7. This is one I keep meaning to read! I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. I think I’ve had mixed reactions to other books of hers that I’ve read. But still want to check this series out and feel like I need to get ahead of it before the tv show comes out. Great review!

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  8. Great review! I finished Ruin and Rising (book 3) yesterday! While I enjoyed all three books, I had the same issues you did. She just suddenly gets her power and can do everything. I want a slow build! I hope you like the next two books and I am super excited for the show!!

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