Review: ‘Shadow and Bone’ (The Grisha Trilogy, Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo

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As soon as I realized  the hype this series (the Grisha Trilogy) was generating, I knew I had to begin reading it. In a lot of ways, I’m glad I did- in my opinion, it’s almost unparalleled within contemporary YA fiction* for world building. You really feel as if you are living within the fictional realm of Ravka, where teenage orphans (and childhood sweethearts,) Mal and Alina live. You really do feel the magical power that the Grisha (a.k.a badass wizards) have, and the danger that represents. I particularly loved how each Grisha had a separate rank in accordance to their powers. A lot of this worldbuilding, immersive quality is built, layer upon layer, through expressive, almost symbolic language that is connotative of Russian and Slavic languages (Mal and Alina, for example, are called ‘malenchki’, meaning ‘little ghosts’, when they are children.) Bardugo also drew on Russian folktales and legends in order to create an aura of mythos around the Grisha and their powers, which includes control over the weather. The ‘villain’ type character of the Darkling- a mysterious, dangerously seductive young man who can control darkness seemingly at will-I found engaging, fresh and beguiling. At times I was truly gripped. SPOILER: I loved how embroiled Alina became with him, and their growing chemistry. All in all, it had a lot of pros for me.

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The cons were well…don’t hate me, Bardugo fans, but I have yet to really feel anything for Alina, the main character, and love interest for Mal. I loved characters such as Genya and the mysterious Baghra, Alina‘s tutor, but as for Alina…I found her whiny. And self-pitying. And, to be honest, weak. I got tired by all the descriptions of the circles under her eyes, and how thin and pale she was, and how absurdly protective Mal was of her. I wanted her to be a clever, resourceful character, and instead she came across as quite victim-like. (SPOILER) Throughout the course of the novel she does change, but it all came a little too late for me. I would have liked a bit more fire from her. She never really seemed to be good at anything, and she just complained…well, she complained a lot. I also, to be honest, found the ending disappointing.  I know that sounds harsh, but it was really the way I felt. I felt like shaking Alina and saying, ‘grow a backbone!’ Having said that, I really felt engrossed in all the twists and turns of Ravkan politics, and I wonder what Alina‘s character development will be like in  the following two books. Oh, I’ll read them, because parts of this I really loved, but as for Alina… sorry, Bardugo fans, but she just hasn’t convinced me (YET.)

Overall rating: 8 out of 10.

 

*Well, except for V.E. Schwab’s ‘A Darker Shade of Magic,’ which is simply AWESOME in terms of worldbuilding. I intend to post a review on it soon, so stay tuned!!

 

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