In today’s book review I’m sharing my thoughts on the first book of the Shadow and Bone series. I picked up this book having watched the related Netflix series. This book was already on my radar because I had read and loved the Six of Crows duology, also written by Leigh Bardugo. I had already said then that I wanted to read this series, and I’m glad I have started at last.
If you are unfamiliar with the book, here’s a little bit about it below: –
Shadow & Bone – Leigh Bardugo
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.
Based on the Netflix series, this book lived up to my expectations. When I went into it, I knew that I wasn’t necessarily going to love every single aspect of it. There is an element of romance to the story which I didn’t particularly like in the Netflix series either, and inevitably I was going to come across it again in the book. That said, it didn’t detract from the rest of the story in the slightest.
But I am just going to take a minute to talk about that romance, because if I can’t have a whinge on my own little space on the Internet then where can I? Why do men wielding dark and mysterious powers have to ALWAYS be drop-dead gorgeous? Can fantasy writers please have a little bit more imagination and a perspective a little more true to reality for a minute? I know it’s a fantasy book, but there’s a difference between fantastical and delusional.
People are attracted to power. I can’t deny that. But every single fantasy villain is somehow both more powerful than anybody else in the world and just as beautiful… apparently. And that annoys me. Not only is it unrealistic, but the only real way that would actually be true is if they’re also narcissistic. There are a lot of narcissistic people in the world, but does it have to be every single fantasy villain?
I love the fantasy genre, but not all of the tropes that you see time and again. It gets boring. Even reading the tropes I like again and again it gets boring. Ones that I’m not keen on in the first place can definitely go in the bin. Like this one. Anyway, disparaging comments aside, that’s not to say that my grievance with this particular element of the book took away from the rest of the story. It definitely didn’t! On the contrary, I rated this book 4 stars out of five on Goodreads. It’s still a great book!
One of my favourite things about the Six of Crows duology what was the magic system and the lore behind the Grisha. I knew straightaway that it was an element I wanted to explore in more detail, and I’m really glad I did. There is still much to be learned about these people and their magic, and so I want to pick up the rest of the series to pursue this further.
Equally, the world building and the dynamic between those of different regions in the world adds a lot to the storyline. As someone who is very uninterested in politics in real life, I like to see it play out in books. If you follow my blog you know I’m a huge fan of the likes of Game of Thrones etc, in which politics is a huge element. It definitely comes to into play in Shadow and Bone as well. Both the dynamics between characters and those of other regions are attributable to how well this is portrayed within the narrative, and it makes for an interesting division that will no doubt come to the fore in future books.
The one thing I didn’t like about the Netflix series is that it merged the story lines of Six of Crows with this book. Both are fantastic stories – but in their own right! I’m glad the author has chosen to explore these separately, because there are so much of scope and I’m looking forward to see where the rest of the series leads.