Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


Title: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 352

Goodreads link

My rating: 4/5

The cover image I’ve put on here is the exact cover image of the edition I have, and I have to say I’m sorry Veronica Roth, but I really don’t agree with you. This book is like a lot of things I’ve ever read, but that doesn’t make it a bad book. Much the opposite, in fact.

The plot is a fairly standard fare and a particularly popular one in YA at the moment: girl is a member of a lower class of citizen, then discovers she has powers beyond anything anyone else can wield and is immediately elevated into the world of the higher class citizens to learn to wield said power. Problems ensue.

But the plot is only the lines of a story, and as many theories have postulated, there are only a certain numbers of lines available to human storytellers. What counts is how you colour in those lines, and it is in colouring in that Leigh Bardugo really excels. She has created a rich world filled with the flavour of a mystical Russia, which is rarely seen in western YA. It’s the kind of world that you want to burrow into, and you find yourself snatching onto the details that the author lets you see. The segregation of magical roles (Corporalki, Summoners and Fabrikators) and the internal hierarchy amongst the Grisha is satisfyingly original and makes for an interesting dynamic between the characters.

The characters themselves are strong, although occasionally verging on stereotypical, and the main character shows great potential for becoming something of a role model throughout the series (but that remains to be seen!). For now, I like her naive wisdom and natural modesty. She is very easy to get on with and empathise with. The characters are supported by some strong and engaging writing that maintains a fantastic pace throughout. At no point was I reluctant to pick the book up and carry on reading. The complexity and higher meaning of the ending is very satisfying. Just when you start to prepare yourself for the disappointment of a very small slice of what could be a very exciting world, the end suddenly opens up the rest of Leigh Bardugo’s creation, which I have seen tantalising glimpses of in the maps of other books.

I love a first book that lets you know that there is so much more to come in the rest of the series. It is engaging in itself but leaves so much more room to grow that it is impossible to refuse the next in the series. I’ve a few more books in my stack to get through first, but I will be suffering from a brain itch that won’t be scratched until I pick up Seige and Storm.

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