Book Review: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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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 unlikely 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.

Release Date: June 5, 2012
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Henry Holt
Source: Review copy from publisher

This was such a unique book!  I tend to shy away from high fantasy, but books like Shadow and Bone make me keep coming back to the genre.  I was immersed in the world of the Grisha right from the first few pages, and didn't want to come back to reality!

I liked Alina right from the start.  I really felt for her: she is an orphan who is totally alone in the world except for her best friend Mal.  She has never excelled at anything, is very skinny and shy around other people.  Her one joy in life is her friendship with Mal.  They grew up together in an orphanage and forged a very strong bond.  Alina and Mal enter the army together and are assigned to the same regiment.  Mal is a tracker and Alina works with the cartographers (map-makers).

In the world Bardugo has created, there is a class of humans called The Grisha.  They are the most revered and feared members of society, and they possess magical powers.  The powers range from the ability to call the elements, healing, and fighting.  The Grisha live set apart from everyone else and are ruled by The Darkling.  The Darkling is the most powerful of the Grisha, and is feared by all, even the King. 

Alina and Mal's regiment has to cross the Shadow Fold, which divides the nation of Ravka.  The Fold was like a dark, terrifying desert to me.  The sand is like a sea, in fact, it is called The Unsea.  It must be crossed on sand skiffs and it is always dark in the Fold.  There are flying monsters called volcra that eat humans---thus, the main danger of crossing the Shadow Fold.  While Alina and Mal are crossing the Fold, their regiment is attacked by the volcra.  One of the volcra snatches Mal up to take him away and eat him, and all of a sudden Alina's power is revealed.  She has no idea that she has any powers, but the threat of Mal's death unleashes her true nature. 

After her display of power, Alina is taken away by The Grisha to become one of them.  She becomes The Darkling's favorite, as her power is so rare and valued.  The Darkling wants Alina to help him destroy the Shadow Fold.  But, all is not as it seems.  The people Alina thinks she can trust are actually conspiring against her, and suddenly, she has no idea what is real and what isn't.

These plot twists are what made the book so good for me.  I loved that the villain is not readily apparent, and that Bardugo makes the reader actually like the villain as well as the heroes of the story.  I truly had no idea what would happen, and I love that!

My one complaint about the story was that I had a hard time catching everything. This probably would have been remedied if I would have just slowed down and read more deliberately, but I was unable to stop myself from reading quickly because I just had to know what happened next!  There were some paragraphs I had to read twice, the story was just that nuanced and detailed.  I love a good, detailed plot, which was the best part of Shadow and Bone.

I loved the ending, which provides a good amount of closure, while setting up book two quite nicely.  I am on pins and needles to find out what happens next in the world of The Grisha.  I would recommend this book to anyone, especially fans of YA, fantasy, and paranormal fiction.  It was an excellent read!


  1. I agree with you - I had a hard time catching some things to - especially in the beginning. All of the different words were so foreign to me, I wasn't quite sure what or who people were. I'm glad I kept reading though because it was really enjoyable!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  2. Sounds like a lot happens with a LOT of details. Sounds like fun reading all of it. :D

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  4. Thank you so much for the wonderful review! This certainly swayed my mind about reading Shadow and Bones! :D

  5. this is a really great book!<3

  6. Wonderful, awesome, terrific book.

  7. This was awesome but my only complaint was the pairing I mean I can't belive she still ended up with the tracker


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