Shadow and Bone | Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo published 12 June 2012

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.

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.

How was it?

Something very strange happened with this book. I’ve seldom had reading experiences like this one. I zombie read* a lot of it, so much so that I had to go back several times to find whichever passages I remembered last. I was interested in the plot but I wasn’t engaged. Maybe the complex names dulled my concentration – I doubt it – or was it Alina’s near obsession with looks that did me in? – maybe. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it almost felt like I was at risk of not going back to the book if I even glanced at another one.

It may sound like I didn’t like the book or that it’s barely average but paradoxically I enjoyed it. There are a lot of elements that I like, the world building, Alina, the way the Darkling was portrayed, and how everything was set up for Alina not to be a Mary Sue later on. But it’s only three quarters into the story that it really picked up for me.

Before that I was going along to get along but every time I thought “OK nothing is happening, the story is in a bit of a rut, in a routine.” something would come up to revive my interest a bit before depleting again. So there was quite a bit of that, it wasn’t ups and downs per say but a slow and steady disinterest before a surge of captivated reading.

Shadow and Bone is unique, you might like it right away or squint at it trying to figure out why you’re still reading.

*Zombie reading: reading something without really processing any of the words on the pages. One often wonders how they got a particular section, with little to no recollection of what came before, after zombie reading.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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