Hmmmmmmm. Shadow and Bone earned a 3 stars from me. I was truly enjoying the book but when it ended, it felt like a book that had cut bits and pieces of a book and pasted it together for a shortened version. Things happened quickly and the story kept taking turns very fast. I didn’t feel as connected with the characters because they didn’t have time to even connect to each other. I think the surprising part for me was reading it on kindle, there was a large excerpt for the next book so it showed that I had a huge percentage of book left when the end came. I honestly clicked back and forward to make sure my ebook wasn’t messed up and checked the ending on Wiki. The ending was SO abrupt. There was no actual climax to the story, in my opinion. Where it ended seemed as if it should have been the climax of the book. I felt as if we were just starting to get a feel for our characters’ situations when it ended.
Our main character Alina is dramatically swept up into the lifestyle of a Grisha, which are people with powers beyond the ordinary. I feel like my background of having read Six of Crows made this world make a lot more sense (which is funny because Shadow and Bone came first). You can tell that Leigh Bardugo strengthens in her writing as time goes on, and it does me good to remember that this WAS her first book and hiccups are okay. Anyway, Alina grew up as an orphan with her best friend Mal, that she’s secretly in love with. They are in the midst of a war and they are the common foot soldiers for it when Alina’s powers are discovered. Now, if you’ve heard anything about this series, you’ll have heard about the love triangle. If you want to skip ahead, I’ll be talking about this love triangle here, and that might be spoilery. I’ll try to avoid actually going into WHAT happens.
Okay, so Alina basically has to choose between The Darkling —whose power is unmatched until Alina comes into her power— and Mal. This is your typical choice between the bad boy and the good guy. I’ve seen quite the few heated argument between “shippers” on bookstagram; certain people love The Darkling in spite of his goals, and certain people think that it’s a toxic relationship and that Mal is the better choice. Here’s the thing… they both have their faults and their redemption. The Darkling immediately sees Alina for who she is and relishes in it. On the flip side, he’s also used to controlling a situation and will use his power to his advantage, which leads to the toxic aspect of their relationship. I won’t go into what actually happens THERE, because it would be a major spoiler, and I haven’t read past this book so I don’t know how that storyline evolves to comment on my thoughts about it.
“Alina, the Darkling doesn’t notice most of us. We’re moments he’ll forget in his long life. And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Just… be careful.”
I stared at her, baffled. “Of what?”
“Of powerful men.”
On the other hand, Mal is the sweet and comforting boy that Alina grew up with. He’s reliable and she feels safe with him. Here’s the thing though… Mal doesn’t have feelings for Alina until she’s gone. It’s made clear that he’s exceedingly handsome and he goes to Alina for advice on how to hook up with other girls. When Alina comes into her powers and sees a Grisha that “enhances” her beauty, Mal is like “wow, I realize that you’re pretty awesome.” That’s not encouraging to me? It took your best friend gaining power and beauty to realize she’s someone you could fall for? Eh. Kinda lame, buddy. I’m not swooning.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”
We are left in the midst of a major choice between “right” or “wrong.” I’m curious to see if everything is how it seems or if we are going to be thrown through a loop from what Bardugo originally wants us to believe. Despite all of the issues I’ve seen in this book, I AM invested and will continue. Like I said, having read Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, I know she becomes a stronger writer. Her characters are interesting and I feel like her leaving us in the dark about a lot of stuff in the first novel will play into the rest of the series. Her Grishaverse is a rich world brimming with endless potential and her straightforward writing style is something that can be very refreshing as a reader.