1. Not really sure why this is called Shadow and Bone? Sounds very dramatic, but not super relevant to actual plot or theme. Things with “bone” in the title were very in in 2012, I guess?
2. Very glad this series wasn’t my first exposure to Bardugo’s writing. I said this in a Goodreads status update, but although it’s not badly written, it’s nothing special either. Pretty standard YA fantasy with attending tropes and such, with flairs here and there of interesting worldbuilding. I’m giving it a little slack for being published in 2012 before I OD’ed on YA fantasy, but I didn’t read it back then, I’m reading it now, and I loved the Six of Crows duology. I know she can do better than this.
Our main character is Alina Starkov. She’s an orphan who grew up with another orphan, this guy named Mal. She loves Mal. They are both in the army together, and (surprise) Alina doesn’t feel like she fits in, anywhere. Then she discovers that she is actually a Grisha! Which is the magic system in this book, which isn’t nearly fleshed out enough here for my liking. It’s called “the small science,” and there are different types of practitioners. Alina’s type is (of course) very rare. She is whisked away to a palace to begin training, and also to begin falling under the sway of the mysterious and powerful Darkling (love triangle: check!).
What saves this book are the small details. Little moments that hint at a much bigger world, and stuff I’d want to see explored. And it’s really a well done version of a pretty standard plot. The dialogue is fine, the prose used is good, and it has a nice sense of atmosphere. I’m just not in the mood for reading this same plot again. Especially with such nondescript main characters.
I want to learn more about Grisha powers and history. I want to learn more about Ravka, and how the Fold actually affects the country (the Fold is the scary thing that will most likely be defeated by Alina by the end). I want to learn more about the creepy royal family (I think I might have already met one of the princes in the Six of Crows duology, but don’t spoil it for me).
So, not sorry I read this, even though I’m basically only doing it because I want to read the rest of her books set in the Grishaverse. I’m hoping books two and three evolve and are more interesting than this one, though.