Fair warning: this post contains fangirl moments over Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, the first of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. If fangirling gives you a massive headache, walk away now.
Otherwise, OMG THIS BOOK!!
Set in an alternate ancient Russia, in a place called Ravka, the story opens with a boy and a girl, both orphans adopted by Duke Keramsov before being posted to different vocations: Alina a cartographer, Mal a tracker/hunter. They live in a country that is constantly under siege by Fjerdans from the north, and Shu Hans from the south, and there’s this thing called the Fold that the Darkling and his men have to cross on their voyage across the Unsea. There, bird-like beasts called the Volcra feast on human flesh. The inciting moment is when Alina is taken across the fold and manages to save those on board with her once-dormant power of light.
The Darkling, by the way, is the leader of the Grisha (the magical elite) who is trying to wrestle for power from the passive king and rule all the land. He finds use for Alina, who is revealed to be the Sun Summoner, the one who can drive the Volcra away and ensure the safe crossing of the Fold. Alina is taken under the Darkling’s wing and hailed as the new hope for the people of Ravka.
But as she is taken deeper into the world of the Grisha, Alina uncovers more secrets and is forced to question her loyalties to the Darkling.
The first 60 percent of the book was kind of forgettable, and more than once I questioned where this was all leading up to. The flirty little moments between the Darkling and Alina, where the latter is lured by the promise of power and affection (things that had been denied to her when she was an adopted orphan), the lessons Alina had to go through, the petty politics of the court, where Alina was the subject of gossip and underhanded attacks by a jealous Grisha girl. I was ready for Alina to stop whining about how pathetic she was physically and get on with honing her powers already.
But then: PLOT TWIST PLOT TWIST PLOT FRIGGING TWIST!
Only it came about 100 pages too late. I would’ve liked things to move a little quicker, especially around the first 60 percent or so of the book. I took three weeks to read this book because I gave up on it halfway and moved on to other books. But once you survive till 65 percent or so, you will be glued to the page. There, I didn’t give anything away, did I?
I wasn’t really a fan of the prose at the beginning. There were just too many I’s in the sentences, and after a while I was like, Vary your sentence structure, pleeeease!
Case in point:
And lest you think this is typical of first-person narrative (I know people who scoff at first-person POV), it’s not. There are a lot of writers whose writing feels natural even in first-person.
But then you’ve got moments like these:
And it’s just,
Sentence structure what??
Um, need I say more? Malina (Mal + Alina) is endgame. (I peeked at the end of the last book), and that makes me happy *insert cheesy grin*
So I can get past the excessive use of I’s and rote reporting of events, because OH YES THIS IS HOW YA FANTASY SHOULD BE DONE.
And the good news is: books two and three await.
Happy Friday! Hope you’re lost in a good book too :0)