08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, 358 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/03/2013

Alina Starkov and her best friend, Mal, are orphans. When they are tested by the Grisha as young children, they are deemed to be nothing particularly special. Life goes on and Alina and Mal find themselves both working for the army, Alina as a cartographer and Mal as a tracker. On an ill-fated trip to The Fold (a vast, dark and sinister space cutting across their country, inhabited by horrible winged monsters – the volcra- and little else), Alina, Mal and the rest of their regiment are almost killed. What saved them was a flash of brilliant light that drove away the volcra and left Alina unconscious. As it turns out, the flash came from Alina, who honestly believed she had no Grisha-type powers whatsoever. Not only does she have power, she has the most rare power of them all. Alina is quickly swept up into the world of the Grisha, fearing that she will never truly fit in or feel like herself again.
I really appreciated the details that made this fantasy so different from most others. First and foremost, the country that it is set in, Ravka, has a distinct Russian feel. Many of the locations *sound* really similar to existing locales and a lot of the details point to a similar culture. The vast majority of fantasy books I’ve read have a pseudo-Medieval vibe to them (complete with Medieval-style castes and sexism). It’s quite refreshing to see a story like this. Another aspect of the book/series that stands out to me is the investigation of the caste-like system the Grisha use. This theme is frequently overshadowed by some of the more romance-y portions, but is still an interesting juxtapostion. Alina is a cool enough narrator, not particularly “strong”, per se, but one who stays true to herself throughout. This is the start of what is sure to be a fascinating trilogy. From what I’ve heard, it’s already been optioned for film rights.

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