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ARC Review: Shadow and Bone

my thoughts in a few sentences:Shadow and Bone is the book I couldn’t get out of my head once it arrived on my doorstep, the one I badly wanted to read, and all others I had tried to start suffered because of this hunger for a story that was not them. Finally, I gave up reluctance and waiting and picked it up on a late evening, and my eyes were dry, sore, and brutally red, but firmly aware, by the time I looked up from the final page only to note that dawn was coming. My internal clock didn’t feel the blows until long after because the story, even after the pages relented and Bardugo’s own siren song buried in her beautiful story, which had called me back, faded, my mind was still trapped in the memory of absorbing the events on each page. I haven’t been so thoroughly captured in a long time.

hooking 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."

Henry Holt and Co. • Requested • High Fantasy • 6/5/12 • $13.49

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
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.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is pretty much my dream book. Cultivated from the richness of the Russian language, and perhaps customs—though I’m not certain, this fantasy brings me joy beyond imagining. Leigh Bardugo is the map that leads us to the treasure trove, as each word is spun gold, each place are brilliant gems, but king among them is the diamond and perfect, dazzling shards are scattered to live in each character. Love is either dark temptation or a rightness that shone, and the romance is everything I thought I wouldn’t want and came to desperately need as I realized the rightness of this him and her that had been a package deal since the beginning. I thank Bardugo profusely for this gift she has crafted with talented hands and so much heart, leading me to clutch this book tightly for the treasure it is and silently curse the fates for an elusive sequel that is well out of reach.

It’s nerve-wracking to attempt to give an explanation as to why this novel is so necessary to everyone and their constantly-growing bookshelves. Especially since every moment is pure pleasure, a knife that cut through the fatigue I had been feeling with little effort behind the invisible hand that confidently wielded it. Boredom could not touch me; my interest remained unshakeable no matter the interruptions, such as a grumbling belly, tired eyes, and an angry bladder. Everything outside of magic lessons with ancient masters of the small sciences, battling against violent birdlike cannibals, and the whereabouts of a certain oblivious best friend and the secrets and mysteries of another who waits in the wings paled into pitiful insignificance. Bardugo’s world seduces us into a trance that allows us to truly see what has been tamed to paper.

Alina Starkov could be an annoying heroine, one whom our affection resists, but, in spite of how frustrating she can be, she is entirely relatable and wonderful, an honest creation that strikes down our reluctance with her loneliness and sacrifices and the unrequited love that has dominated her life for years now. Her presence, in the beginning, is often taken for granted, especially by the one person she loves more than anything, a man who has been her best friend for nearly as long as she can remember, and when brightness exposes her it is siphoned from a future where the two could remain inseparable. It’s painful, reading as Alina is brutally stripped from the only home she’s ever known, the only person she’s ever truly loved in just about every which way a person can love. Fear doesn’t take away her personality, but as her circumstances continue to lose light, in which she is forced out of anonymity and made to be an idol to depend on, her journey to herself pulls her away from the memory of what was, and that is agonizing and exhilarating all at once.

Accompanying Alina as she grows into and adopts the skin of the person she was always meant to be is more than enough to immerse us into her story, since she is a character that is understandable and is a magnet for compassion. Magic lessons, court politics, and assassins shadowing her footsteps are enough to keep anyone busy and engaged. And with this newfound life comes the presence of an enigmatic, all-powerful magical being that urges her to take to this new life, and has us and Alina sorely tempted to let ourselves be whisked away into the now compelling dark.

We come to play right into Bardugo’s hands as we are firmly caught in her iron web and shocked at the revelation. The mysteries we’ve been attempting to understand make sense for only a moment, before the outcome is rudely snatched away and turned on its head so that we are confused and appalled once more, because it’s impossible to prepare for a surprise blow like the one dealt to us. The sense of injustice is fierce, as we were left in the dark for so long and were less than clever enough to detect the truth. Although there is room for much more given the turn of events, Shadow and Bone ends in one final flawless swipe and we don’t even realize the story is truly over because we are already absently reaching for what should be next. It isn’t until we come up empty-handed that we realize our predicament: we are without the next chapter and will be forced to endure its absence until Bardugo is ready.

Rating: Special Shelf
"So what are you doing here?" When we’d first started our military service a year ago, Mal had visited me almost every night. But he hadn’t come by in months.
He shrugged. "I don’t know. You looked so miserable at dinner."
I was surprised he’d noticed. "Just thinking about the crossing," I said carefully. It wasn’t exactly a lie. I was terrified of entering the Fold, and Mal definitely didn’t need to know that Alexei and I had been talking about him. "But I’m touched by your concern."
"Hey," he said with a grin, "I worry."
"If you’re lucky, a volcra will have me for breakfast tomorrow and then you won’t have to fret anymore."
"You know I’d be lost without you."
I rolled my eyes. "You’ve never been lost in your life." I was the mapmaker, but Mal could find true north blind-folded and standing on his head.
He bumped his shoulder against mine. "You know what I mean."
"Sure," I said. But I didn’t. Not really. (24)

Looking for books with a similar feel? Try checking out the following:

Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Don't be shy!


rogier said...

oooooooooooh oooooohhh aaaaaaah
i so need this book
great review

Christy @TheReaderBee said...

Yay! I can't wait to read this book. You've made it sounds amazing!  Looking forward to checking it out now!

Stephanie said...

Squeeeeeeeee!! That's what your review is making me do. I was already on board with this book because it sounds so, so unique but your review has me grasping at thin air, hoping that it will appear in my hands this very second. I love this review, Asher, and I can't wait to love Shadow and Bone, too!

Cindy said...

I can't wait to read this book and your review on it is amazing!

Natalie @ Mindful Musings said...

Special shelf? Comparison to Brightly Woven? SIGN ME UP!!!

Asher Knight said...

 YES YOU DO. I want EVERYBODY to read this book, it's so amazing and incredibly imaginative. Do whatever you have to to get yourself a copy.

Asher Knight said...

 It is COMPLETELY FABULOUS. Total dream book and I loved it to pieces. WAIT until you meet Alina and Mal, and the Darkling is pretty hot if I do say so myself.

Asher Knight said...

 STEPPPPPHHHHHHH. This book is so superfantastic. It has the best bestfriendship turned romance, and the courtly intrigue, the secrets and mysteries, the history and magic lessons and social classes and world-building AND AND AND. It's just so wonderful and amazing and I can't wait for you to read it!

Asher Knight said...

*dances* Oh, I'm so happy you enjoyed reading it and want to read the book. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!!!

Asher Knight said...

SPECIAL SHELF, indeed. Instant. At about fifty pages in, and my decision NEVER wavered. HOPE YOU LOVE IT.

Liz. R said...

Ooooh. Ooooh. OOOOOH. This sounds awesome. I mean, I can already tell from that little excerpt you shared with us. Plus, you compared it to Howl's Moving Castle and I KNOW you wouldn't do that if it this book were not truly amazing :P. So, definitely can't wait to read this! 

Asher Knight said...

YES. YES. YES. Read this book Liz. It's still on Netgalley, i think. You should definitely check because to read this is SO worth it :DD

Sonia said...


I loved this book sosososo much <3 and I will love Mimi FOREVER for sending it over to me. Way to go with avoiding spoilers, btw... I fear that I'll just ruin stuff for people.

The Darkling, Asher! Did you fall for it too? D: I felt so gaaaah after everything was revealed.

Alina = <3 I totally get what you mean because at the beginning I was worried she'd be annoying and whiny but just watching her grow into this powerful, confident person was amazing and I can't wait for MORE MORE MORE.

Love your review! :)

Vivianamott said...

My teen daughter just finished reading (and really enjoyed!) an eBook called Hear by Jacqueline Abelson. Great plot, interesting characters and a real message of self– empowerment. Here’s the link:


Sarah (saz101) said...

UGH! ASHER! YOU KILL ME! You know, this is enough to sell me: "Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is pretty much my dream book." Someone else said this, and I'm not fantasising about a book that will touch me as profoundly as Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I never knew about the Russian influence till now, but AJDFJAF! YOU KILL ME! I must read this kind of now now now O___O

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

True story: I cried my eyes out reading this book.  You know how every once in awhile, THERE'S THIS BOOK and IT'S AMAZING and IT BREAKS YOUR HEART INTO SHARDS and then PUTS IT BACK TOGETHER?  (Sorry for all the caps...it's been a few weeks since I finished S&B and I'm STILL flailing crazy-cakes-like over it.) 

I just, God.  Mal.  Mal and Alina.  AND MAL.  (I should say right now that Mal reminded me SO MUCH of Gale Hawthorne from The Hunger Games, which is probably why I fell, heart and soul, for him.) 

I loved everything you had to say about this book.  Alina was SO identifiable and amazing.   And the Darkling was an awesomely sensual/alluring/EVIL man.  I just, EVERYTHING that Leigh Bardugo poured into this book combined to make it perfect.  When I own a copy - AND I WILL - it will be on my Top Shelf on my bookshelf - literally the top shelf, where I put my favorite books.