Friday, August 22, 2014

Shadow and Bone (Grisha Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo

Summary: 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?

My review: Let me start by saying that the producers who made the Harry Potter movies have purchased the rights to the Grisha trilogy. You will be seeing a lot about Shadow and Bone. Might as well read it now.

Alina and Mal are two orphans now learning their trades for the king's army. Alina is a cartographer in training and Mal is a soldier. But on their first trip into the the Shadow Fold, a swath of blackness separating their dying country from its trade ports, they are attacked by flesh-eating monsters created by dark magic. In a moment of desperation, Alina discovers a unique and powerful gift--she can summon the light of the sun.

She is immediately welcomed into the ranks of the Grisha—an elite group who has mastered the "small science" and manipulate atoms and elements of this world in a way that seems magical. There are the tide makers, the healers, the squallers, the fabrikators, and heartrenders. They make up the King's second army. An army that terrifies all others because of what they do without weapons. Alina is now the darling of the king and of the Darkling—the leader of the Grisha of unknown origin who has an intoxicating pull over her.

She says goodbye to her childhood friend Mal—who she always secretly crushed on—and learns to use her power—a power that could destroy the Shadow Fold and save all of Ravka. Yet she yearns for the simple girl she once was and the boy who could always make her laugh. Mal doesn't return her letters. And the Darkling keeps spending more and more time with her. Alina's magnificent future is right before her, yet she can't let go of her past.

I loved the different spin on magic in this book. It's not some cosmic power, but just a very advanced manipulation of earthly elements. I loved the Russian influence of this fantasy. So many fantasies are set in a generic western-European type world. I loved the Russian linguistics, architecture, wardrobes, and food. So fun. I've heard some critics complain that the genders of the last names are wrong and the drink kvas is portrayed incorrectly (in Russia, kvas is as mild as root beer, apparently. In the book, it's a strong drink). But it's fantasy, people. Not historical fiction. Let it slide.

The middle section of the book with Alina learning to use her powers was a little slow and boring. In the movie, it will be a one-minute montage and it will be perfect.

I could not understand her draw to Mal. Their friendship and her crush did not seem real. There were few examples that sold me on it. I had to believe in it simply because the author said it existed. So when the Darkling comes along with his all-powerful, hotness, I was totally Team Darkling. For anyone worried about a love triangle, there really isn't one. You'll have to read it to see what I mean, but this isn't the typical YA "two boys love me at the same time and I don't know who to pick" kind of thing.

The word and lore is very well-developed. I devoured this book and the entire series. Check it out. I think it's going to make a gripping and visually stunning movie in the right hands.

My rating: 4.5

For the sensitive reader: mild language, a few passionate kisses, and violence that is never too graphically described. 

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