Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Grisha Trilogy #1
I’ve been intrigued by Bardugo’s YA series for a while, mostly because I found the idea of a Russia-like setting refreshing. Other than that, I went into the book more or less blind – didn’t even read the back! Worked surprisingly well.
Basically, Shadow and Bone is a lot like any other YA fantasy I have read or know about. There are people with different powers, protagonist discovers to their utter surprise they have these powers, and on top of that they are the only one who can save their world. You’ve seen this before. There’s a bit of romance, pretty obvious baddies, and the first-person POV.
Don’t be deceived by the third-person POV of the prologue. I always feel cheated when something starts with a third-person and then switches to first-person (I felt cruelly betrayed by Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind). Thankfully, Bardugo’s first person isn’t too annoying. The main character, Alina, is somewhat annoying at times too, but at least not when it comes to the romance aspect, and all in all she’s quite tolerable and rather believable.
The plot is what I described above – discovers powers later in life than most, gets trained, is supposed to save the whole known world. Manipulative bad guy, pretty girl who’s jealous of her. And she’s in love with her best friend, too. That works surprisingly well – Alina is not obnoxious or too whiny about it, although there is naturally some moping, but not to a degree that would be bothersome. There is also a hint of a love triangle and more jealousy on that front that I’d like, but it’s fairly contained.
However, even though I actually enjoy Bardugo’s voice and the story, it feels rather unremarkable, especially in hindsight. This is not a bad book, but it doesn’t seem to have anything that would particularly set it apart, aside from the setting. I do give it a rather high rating despite this, as you can see, because I did enjoy it and actually might pick up the next book if I happen to see it in the library, but it has mostly temporary value; it’s good entertainment, but I feel no need to know right now what happens next.
As usual, there’s a minor thing that caught my attention, and that is the name of the series and of the people with magical talent – Grisha. It’s a diminutive of Grigori, I find, and undoubtedly the most famous Grigori in Russian history is Grirogi Rasputin, who was famous for supposedly being capable of magic. Does this mean there is something sinister related to the magic? Why is this the word chosen by Bardugo? This question might actually have me finishing the series.
Or, you know, I might just google it to see if Bardugo has said anything about it. Either or.