Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 372
Series: 1st book in the Grisha series
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Square Fish
First Published: May 2013
First Line: "The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke's house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches."

Book Description from GoodReadsSurrounded 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.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

My Review:  I've been meaning to pick up this book for quite awhile.  The cover is striking and although I knew nothing about the characters or plot ahead of time I had heard wonderful reviews from other readers/book bloggers.  That's usually a good enough reason for me to pick up a new book.

From the book's description on the cover it had a lot going for it - a unique Russian-esque culture and setting.  Think of it as 'medieval fantasy with a Russian twist' with a war and a love triangle of sorts.  There's monsters, a dark and dangerous place ... ya, there was a lot to draw me to this book.

Unfortunately it took me awhile to get into it.  The setting, while promising, wasn't described or explained well enough for me.  It was hard to picture in my mind and the pace dropped off dramatically in the middle and didn't really pick back up until the last 50 pages or so which was very disheartening.

The characters were hits and misses too.  Alina, as the main character fell flat and never became the main character that she should have.  When she was first introduced I thought she was quiet but had a streak of sass in her. I do so love some sass.  Sadly, her strength and personality soon began to waiver. Once she was in the royal court she seemed to lose her oomph and my interest in equal measure.  Ultimately, she came off as weak and at a big disadvantage because she's described as plain to the point of ugly in a society where it seems only pretty people can succeed, it seems.  

The character that stood out the most from me was The Darkling but even he wasn't used as well as he could have been.  Unfortunately the vast majority of the characters weren't memorable (I can't even remember their names) and therein lies the overall problem of this book.  It has an interesting premise but not enough time is devoted to delving deeper into the characters' personalities and relationships or the setting for that matter. 

The plot of this book suffered from a scorching case of 'tell instead of show'.  Oh how I hate that!  The reader is told that the Grisha have these amazing powers but we don't really get to see them in action.  We're told that Alina goes through extensive training but hardly get to see any of it.  I think getting a better look into her training would have helped me understand her power better, especially since she's being trained by such a wizened woman.  But in the end the reader only gets a peek into the training but otherwise it's just Alina complaining about how mean her teacher is to her. It was frustrating and wasted time that the reader could have gotten to know Alina better.

The premise was so promising and there were some interesting points (The Fold, hierarchy at the royal court, the mysterious Darkling) but in the end I don't feel that these points were used in the story enough.  On the plus side, Bardugo's writing was solid and I did enjoy some of the humour and banter between Alina and other characters.  

I just wish that the story lines were more complex and not so straight-forward.  I wanted something deeper and juicier with more action.  This felt like YA Light which wasn't as satisfying.  I'm not into 'light' things whether it's yogurt, sour cream or coffee creamer.  And I'm not really into light fiction. This book had a good premise but the execution needed some work.  This is a very popular series and please note that I'm in the minority with my feelings.  I'm still hopeful that the author tightens up the plot and character development in the future books but unfortunately this book didn't entice me into reading more of the series.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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