Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Pages: 368 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Received an ARC through a swap with a friend.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promitional Materials and More:  book trailer | author website

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.


And the hype strikes again! All but one of my friends loved this novel and they promised me it would be fantastic. Having been bitten by hype multiple times (two very recent incidents being Divergent and Anna Dressed in Blood), I put off reading my copy for close to two months and said that if the novel didn't live up to the hype, all my friends that loved it owed me their pinky fingers. Two days of near-nonstop reading later, I find myself less impressed with the novel than they were. Time for them to kiss their pinkies goodbye!

Bardugo's writing flows well and her top-notch worldbuilding left me dying to know more. She can write a fantastic make-out scene, that's for sure. Even when Alina and the Darkling's relationship dives into Not Okay territory, the complexity of it is almost scrumptious and readers are sure to gobble it up. Speaking of complexity, the Darkling's characterization had to be the standout point of the novel. His secrets and layers are constantly being unraveled and revealed throughout the novel and I looked upon it with envy. If I could write a character like that...

So with all that nice stuff to say, why don't I love it?

I didn't care about any of these characters. The Darkling's complexity is appreciated, but not anything I love because he's not very original in it. I feel like I've already seen characters just like him that did it better. Alina and Mal didn't win more of my attention than the bare minimum I could give. They were satisfactory, but they once again felt like characters I'd seen done better elsewhere. Like with a cornbread recipe in my family that my grandmother wrote. My dad follows the recipe exactly when he makes cornbread, but he always says it's never quite like the cornbread she made. Most of all, I wanted this book to go deeper than it did with its characters and its world. Shadow and Bone may be entertaining, but it's not quite as engaging as I wish it was.

It seems like a good sign I read this in two days, but it isn't in this case. On the first day, I read about seventy-five pages; on the second day, I skimmed the rest. So much time was spent on the makeovers, balls, and the Darkling drawing Alina in while I wondered where the overarching plot was. As a small niggle, Alina's name bugs me. According to the Russian tradition that seems to govern most of the other names, it should be Alina Starkova, not Alina Starkov.

Now if those friends of mine who hyped it up so much would leave me the pinky fingers they owe me, that would be fantastic. There's a knife by the door and doctors will be waiting outside to make sure you don't bleed to death or anything like that. Thank you! But just like they will, I'll be coming back for the next installment of Bardugo's series.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier