Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I don’t know what went wrong with me for this book. Maybe I was comparing it to much to Six of Crows, which is now the standard I compare all fantasy books with? I know they’re by the same author, so I guess I was expecting something of the same story. However, this book is so far from Six of Crows, it’s best if you don’t think of that book at all.
This story takes us into the the Grishaverse yet again but from a new angle. We’re in Ravka, a place that reminds you what a fantasyland Russia would be like complete with magical people – Grisha – who rule over the common people in their fancy robes and kickbutt powers. There is an enigmatic place called the Shadow Fold that is a dark part of Ravka where creepy vulture-like things (I kept imagining these weird one eye massive turkey like things so not very scary for me) kill you as you try to cross this near-black land. Our heroine, Alina, is forced to cross it for her job, and as the vulcra are killing her friends and trying to kill her, a great light comes and saves them all. Did she do that? Is she a Grisha? One of the most powerful Grisha to live and save them all from the Shadow Fold?
Perhaps, it would have been far more helpful if I actually read the summary or anything about it before I started to read it. I went into this book, not knowing anything, in order to satisfy my Leigh Bardugo feels. It still had her beautiful writing style and wonderfully crafted world – how on earth does she create this stuff?? – but it was lacking quite a bit in other regards.
The main reason, possibly, that I had so many issues with it was the main character. Unlike her other books, I didn’t feel much for Alina. I liked her well enough, but I never truly cared what happened to her or what she was feeling. I didn’t care if she was having struggles with her powers or if she was sad because her instructors made her work much. Towards the last 40% of the book, I did care about her a bit more, but I still didn’t have that dedication I should have had for a main character. She felt a bit too cookie cutter for me, and that was a problem. I did really like Genya, though, so hopefully she makes more appearances as the storyline goes on.
I also felt the plot became a bit disjointed. I wasn’t sure for a while what the storyline was. Was it about the Shadow Fold? Was it about her presence as a Sun Summoner? Was it the romance? Near the end, the stag? I didn’t have a solid line, and it made me hesitant to continue with it. I wasn’t as enthralled with it as I was by her previous book.
I guess all my main reasons I found this book is lacking is because I couldn’t stop myself from comparing it to Six. That book is one of my favorites of all times, and since it is set in the same universe, I expected the same things from the book. It’s a whole different storyline, group of people – not as morally questionable although the Darkling sure is up there – and even a different setting. I think it would have been better if I had read this before I read that series, since I couldn’t have compared it.
This really isn’t a bad book. Leigh Bardugo just don’t have that ability to do it, it seems. I think a lot of people will like this. It has romance, it has action, it has an amazingly lush setting, it has some good funny bits, and it has a well-executed and beautifully unique concept. It has a lot of merits. It just didn’t fit with what I wanted out of this book, and I couldn’t get into it for that reason. I will always say to go read Six of Crows, and while I do recommend this, I might read it before so Six of Crows doesn’t give you impossible standards to live up like it did for me.
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