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You and I are going to change the world.
After finishing the Six of Crows duology, I was going to stay in the Grishaverse and head over to the original series Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. But due to the knowledge that I had gleamed from Six of Crows and TikTok, I kept getting anxious when it came to starting this book series. So, I had put it off and returned to other series I had already read. As I felt like I knew too much in a way, or had too high of expectations to enjoy reading the book. But after a month or so, I finally forced myself to get past that and start Shadow and Bone. Once I started, I couldn’t put the book down.
Going into the series the following things were already spoiled for me either by TikTok or through reading Six of Crows:
- Nikolai is Sturmhond (the Privateer) and becomes the King of Ravka.
- Alina dies at the end of the series or at least it’s hinted at in Six of Crows that she is dead.
- Alina ends up with Mal, but also had a romance with the Darkling.
- Darkling is a very morally grey character (bad intentions towards main character, possible villain) and people on TikTok love him as the Darkling is always included in “book boyfriends” tags alongside characters like Rowan Whitethorn, Dorian Havilliard, Will Herondale, and Rhysand.
- Alina is one of the most powerful Grisha ever to exist, and didn’t know she was one until she was a teenager around seventeen (I think that was the age that Jesper? was told).
Hopefully that doesn’t spoil the entire series for me, but it is a note going into it. I have a weird feeling the Alina death part might as it won’t be as impactful since I know it’s coming. I know that doesn’t come until the last book, but I’m still leaving that note in here.
If you don’t want spoilers go to the OVERALL THOUGHTS section of this post. I’ll be sharing my review of the book in this part without any of the spoilers or plot points.
- Title: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
- Originally Published: June 5, 2012
- Print Length: 358 pages
- Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.
Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.
As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.
Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.
Thoughts While Reading…
Immediately, I noticed the writing style was different to Six of Crows. Where that series had been written in third person limited, this was written in first person through the perspective of Alina. Considering I knew she ends up with Mal, I could see the signs of their relationship right away. And was wary of the Darkling… which is a title not a name. I don’t know why I thought it actually was the dude’s name. Anyways, Alina learns during an attack that she is a unique type of summoner able to create sunlight. Something that no one else in the Grisha can do, including the Darkling though he wants Alina to wear his colors.
I kind of wish I had started with this series first as compared to Six of Crows, as you get to understand the Grisha and Ravka way better. Six of Crows makes the assumption you have already read Shadow and Bone series or are aware of it to some extent. So, there were a lot of details I was familiar with, but finally it made more sense reading this book. Like the uniforms that the Grisha wear and the rankings within their order. Those details were glossed over in Six of Crows for the most part. I understand now why they were so special. Plus, you learn about additional details in regards to those Grisha uniforms. They are embroidered differently based off specialty, some of which like tailoring is looked down at (where I thought it wasn’t in Six of Crows). I don’t recall this detail from Six of Crows when Nina describes them. Alina, for instance, goes with the blue color of Summoners/Etherealki though she is granted permission to wear Darkling black and gets gold embroidery for her sun summoning ability.
Alina learns about the Grisha and eventually figures out she blocked her ability to summon sunlight, so she wouldn’t be taken from Mal. When she finally lets go of the idea that she might return to her best friend she is able to use her abilities. As Mal never returns a single one of her letters, which we later learn never reached him. Something I guessed at right away, as I assumed the Darkling would make sure they never reached Mal.
However, it’s not enough. The Darkling suggests an amplifier. But not any amplifier. He wants a special one made for her that’s a necklace. Any time she questioned it, he kissed her or got her to take her mind off the subject in one way. Make her wait and not question too much of what his plans were for her. I could see the mal-intent in an instant thanks to that previous knowledge… which in this case I wish I didn’t know. As it kind of ruined that surprised. Still enjoyed it, but I wish I hadn’t known as it would’ve been better to learn that the Darkling basically wanted Alina as a slave. One in which would happen the second the necklace amplifier was placed on her.
Alina runs away and ends up being found by the Darkling’s guards and trackers. Mal included. He manages to get Alina away, taking her north to find the stag on their own. Over their travels, they bond again and eventually kiss. Only for the Darkling to appear the same moment the stag does. But Mal couldn’t keep his promise to kill Alina, nor was Alina able to kill the stag before the Darkling could. She didn’t want to kill it. So, she is placed in the antler collar and loses her control over her powers. Darkling keeps her from trying anything by promising to hurt Mal, if she so much as tries.
Alina begs the Darkling for mercy. He does not grant it. He informs her that Mal will be killed in the Fold, when he displays his ability to control the Fold/Unsea to kill anyone that opposes him. Alina manages to take control over the amplifier as the stag had given her the power to, when she spared its life, after Mal is tossed overboard and the demonstration is complete. Alina flees with Mal, and leaves everyone else behind to the monsters and darkness. The Darkling refuses to let the others kill Alina for turning on them. And his fate is left unclear along with the reminders of those on the stiff.
I really enjoyed this book. I got into it after a few pages, and things from Six of Crows started to make sense. We even got to meet Zoya before she became Nina’s mentor. She is so much different in this book than in that series. I’m curious to see what other chances will come with her in the later books. Not to mention, what’s going to happen over Alina leaving the Darkling in the Unsea. I know a civil war is coming, but at the moment no one was ready to side with Alina against the Darkling save for Mal. And he’s mostly doing it because he loves Alina.
Even though I knew several details going into the book, I still found myself enjoying every minute of figuring out how they would unfold. Of course, I wasn’t worried for Mal or Alina at any point. As I knew where they were end game. And Alina at least is safe until the last book (maybe?).
Shadow and Bone was shorter compared to other books I’ve read recently (re-reading really), it never felt short or rushed. Everything was explained perfectly and flowed together. While Six of Crows I did not have that feeling I would return at any point in the future to re-read it, I do get that with this book. We’ll see if it continues with the remainder of the series. But so far, I’m really enjoying it. Now is Shadow and Bone something that I would say is the best book I ever read? No. But I thought that with A Court of Thorns and Roses in the beginning, the first book was good but I didn’t throw it into my favorite list. The series I return to starting at the second book. So, I’ll be curious to know where my mindset lies when I finish this series.
All of the characters I enjoyed, even the Darkling. I can see why people like him. Hell, I know he’s awful… completely evil, but I still liked reading about him. He’s interesting. I want to know more about him especially if he’s been faking his death and pretending to be different people every few centuries. Weirdly enough, I’m not rooting against him. I know he doesn’t succeed, but still I don’t get that loathing sense as I read about him. He’s twisted. And trying to help Grisha/Ravka in a way, the wrong way, but I understand where he’s coming from. He wants to get rid of the fear over Grisha and end the war that Ravka has been in against other nations for years. So, in that regard, I love his character.
I’d give Shadow and Bone a 4.5 star rating out of 5 with all that in mind. I can’t wait to see where the series goes and how Nikolai comes into place, as he didn’t make an appearance in this book. But I know he’s coming. At least, I hope he is unless that’s in the other series from the Grishaverse that I haven’t gotten to yet. We’ll find out soon, I suppose.
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Lovely review, Mae. Fantasy is not my favorite genre, but your reviews always tempt me to read it.😉
Thank you, I really appreciate that.
Sounds great, nice review!