I’m probably one of the last people to read Shadow and Bone and the wider Grishaverse. I read the Six of Crows duology a couple years ago and really enjoyed them. With the Netflix adaption due to be released in April I figured it was time to finally give the original Grisha trilogy a read!
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Available formats: Paperback, Hardback, eBook and audiobook
Synopsis: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Shadow and Bone was an enjoyable read. The structure and pacing of the story was well done. Sometimes YA protagonists can feel a little “empty” but here Alina is a fully realised character and a joy to spend time with. I loved spending time at the Little Palace and learning about Ravka‘s history. Compared to the Six of Crows duology we get a lot more insight into Rakva and the history of the war consuming the continent, as well as how the magic works from a cast mostly comprised of Grisha. The insights we get here are more about the feel, theology and well ✨magic✨ of the Small Science whereas in SOC we learn it’s practical and technical mechanics.
Genya is probably my favourite character in this book, she’s a Grisha tailor and becomes what could be considered Alina’s closest friend and mentor at the Little Palace; the chemistry between the two of them is great and builds through the book. Her past and the role she plays was very interesting to read. Also the little crush she has on another Grisha fabrikator is just the cutest!
“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.”
Some of my dislikes of Shadow and Bone were the unnecessary woman hate. I know it’s common in young adult books to include petty bullshit between female characters but I feel like here there’s too much of it and not enough examples of F/F friendships. The way it’s used here is done to show the reader the Grisha of the Little Palace seek power and status over others, sometimes this was well done and other’s it was just “well she’s prettier than me so I hate her, I guess”. My other gripe with this story was in what I like to call “the travelling chapters”. This can happen in a wide spectrum of sci-fi and fantasy but essentially it’ll occur during the third act of the story where the protagonist is in the wrong place and has to travel to the location of the final scene. Sometimes they’re done to add in a little bit more character development before the end or to build suspense for the immanent climax – the calm before the storm. Here it went on for a little longer than I would’ve wanted, it really slowed the pacing down and there were moments where I was actually pretty bored. I wasn’t super into this but ultimately it was a minor blip in an otherwise great narrative.
“The problem with wanting,” he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, “is that it makes us weak.”
Whenever anyone talks about this series a huge focus is on it’s antagonist: the Darkling. If you know me then you know I’m a big fan of my villains and they play a huge role in my enjoyment of fantasy story. I was concerned that he would not live up to the hype but thankfully I really enjoyed all of his scenes and this role in the story. His motivations, presence and interactions were definitely a highlight of this book for me. I have to admit, the Darkling is kinda hot. 😂 (It should be noted that when I say “hot” I mean I would drop everything to join his cause, lol). The “Fine, make me you villain” scene was actually pretty underwhelming for me though. This is just the first book and although I was all aboard the Darkling train I feel like he hasn’t reached his full, utterly despicable villain potential. I’m looking forward to see how he develops in the rest of the series.
Overall this was a pretty good first book and has all of the aspects of a young adult fantasy and executes them to a high standard. Although I wasn’t super blown away I still very much enjoyed it and look forward to reading Siege and Storm next month.