You know that one book you just can't bring yourself to read because of all the fantastic reviews - and once you read it, you get sucked in and you're just like damn?
Yeah, Shadow and Bone is one of these.
Honestly, I didn't expect too much from this book, since everyone on Goodreads has been raving about this since the day it came out. I'm not really someone, who follows the hype, so once I looked at the blurb, I was like meh and tossed it aside. Boy, how wrong I was.
This book has so many wonderful elements I always looked for in fantasy books. Russian culture is something I have been interested in since I read about the Shooting of the Romanov family.
For the record, I did notice Bardugo has butchered some things like, the gendered family names. It did irked me at first, because there were some characters, who do have gendered family names, and some who don't, and I would've appreciated it more if she had a) stayed true to the whole let's make all female characters have male family names, so we know it's an alternative/fictional Russia anyway or b) gender the names; it takes you literally five minutes to google that shit, plus you can stay true to Russian culture.
Fortunately the German version (which I read first) corrected the names, so it didn't bother me that much. The rest of Russian culture very much resembled that of Ravka's, and Bardugo's writing sure did help. I loved her style of describing without verbally giving away the meaning. Surprisingly there were many parallels to the real world like the infamous silk road and the territories of Nordic countries and China, just with other names, but they stayed true to their reputations of the past. By bringing in the Tsarian reign, Bardugo also reflected the
facaded glory of Imperial Russia beautifully, although she notably did show the shady side of it.
Which brings me to the Elite Force of the Tsar, the Grisha. Although it does sound like a Hogwarts knock-off, once you really read it through, it is completely different. The Grisha are on a fantastic level on their own, since they are each born with different powers and are grouped by their respective abilities. They support the general society by aiding them in military etc., which is an interesting change to the whole hide-and-seek theme most of YA fantasy has going on.
The main character Alina wasn't as annoying as I expected her to be. Since she hails from the mundane military's cartography squad, she has some sense of duty and responsibility, and although she was weak at first, she accepts her flaws and works on it - diligently. She does have the whole Chosen One with Unique Powers No One Ever Had For Like Everthing going on, she does some pretty kickass things in order to (SPOILER
) escape from Os Alta. At the beginning Alina is naive and timid, but that makes her human and I love that she even grows out of her shell.
Her two 'love interests' were fine at best. Honestly, I couldn't see how the relationship between Alina and the Darkling developed so fast; they had zero chemistry and I'm glad they (SPOILER)
turned it into a facade very soon. Mal was cute and faithful, but painfully bland.
Although it has much girl-hate going on, I seriously loved the female characters. They were all awesome and beautiful and kickass and I wish Alina could have end up with one of them, but that's just me wishing for a lesbian main character for once.
Notably, the villains and heroes have four-dimensional characters. No one seemed to stay on the good or bad side for a long time, and I was (pleasantly) surprised as the story unfolded.
Alina's journey from traveling as a plain cartographer through the Shadow Fold (and failing) to being a honorable Grisha in the Little Palace to at last traveling through the Shadow Fold again (but succesfully) as a wanted criminal, was very entertaining. The characters were, although some very clichéd, surprisingly likeable because of their multifaceted personalities and motives. I adore Bardugo's writing; Shadow and Bone an easy read without giving too much detail. Show, don't tell is really something I missed in YA literature and I'm glad she took use of it and crafted the beautiful mental scenery and atmosphere that is Ravka. The ending resolved most of the shallow problems, but left me hanging for the second book
which I actually already read whoops, couldn't help it.
I really should have picked up this book earlier. Stupid, STUPID Nana of the past! Don't listen to your hipster conscience!
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.