Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Age Group: Young Adult
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka. Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free? The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him. But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him? Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.
I love the concept of Shadow and Bone: the Grisha and the shadowfold and the DARKLING (swoon). It's so immensely creative that I couldn't not love it. I'm also a major fan of non-traditional lore (i.e. mythical things other than vampires, werewolves, fae, etc.) and Shadow and Bone is sooo different. I've been interested in all things Russian since I saw Anastasia as a kid, so the book was already right up my alley. Shadow and Bone is a unique adventure story with some seriously swoon worthy romance and badass ladies.
I adored the characters. Alina was super interesting to read about. I think my favorite thing about her character was that she's really self-conscious of how skinny she is. Her unhealthy-skinniness wasn't glorified at all (there weren't even any of those stereotypical "vain" characters who were jealous of her, literally everyone thinks she looks sickly and needs to eat more), and, as someone who was unhealthy-skinny for a long time, I really appreciated that message. Alina is also incredibly strong, especially in her love, her beliefs, and her loyalty to those she cares about. The way she treated Genya when everyone else looked down on her was impressive. And Alina's behavior later in the book when *MAJOR PLOT TWIST* happens shows her personality and makes her more dynamic as a character. She doesn't always make the best decisions, but she follows her heart and, in the end, her faults make her so much more interesting to read about than if she had been perfect.
One of my favorite YA tropes is physically weak characters getting stronger. Alina is frail at the beginning of the book, but has to learn how to fight as part of her training. She was a badass before, don't get me wrong, but reading about a girl learning to fight is one of my favorite things ever. Mackenzie Bishop can fight, Tris Prior can fight, and now we have Alina Starkov. There's this trend starting and I love it because empowering teenage girls in any way, shape, or form is AMAZEBALLS, and a generally great thing in YA lit. I basically love girl fight scenes, especially the ones where they take out grown-ass men. It's so cool. So cool.
Back to the character topic, we also get to know two male characters pretty well. Mal is the sturdy, reliable (most of the time), boy-next-door type. He and Alina have known each other for forever and their changing relationship dynamic is neat (and by neat I mean swoon-worthy and heartbreaking at times). There's also the Darkling: tall, dark, and mysterious. Alina, lonely in the Little Palace, is intrigued by the Darkling. He saves her several times, before she learns how to save herself. He's kind of funny, but in a serious way. Like, he's really stoic a lot of the time, but some of the things he says made me smile. I love his ability to be mean-nice, like you can never tell if he genuinely cares or if he's an ass. It's great. (I love him)
The world building is genius. As I read, I quickly learned what the different colored keftas meant and what powers those Grisha had. It wasn't forced, it was like being immersed in Ravka and learning their culture like being in France and learning their culture. And Shadow and Bone has a map in the front! I love me a good fictional map. Having the map as reference as the characters referenced Shu Han and Fjerda and tsibeya and the Unsea/Shadowfold was really helpful. It made everything feel so much more real.
Basically, I thought Shadow and Bone was brilliant. The characters, the plot, the world, everything about the book was made of awesome. If you like deeply creative fictional worlds and dynamic teenage heroines, I totes recommend this book.