Plot: As orphans in the home of Duke Keramsov, young Alina and Mal were inseparable. Mal grew into a handsome young man and a skilled tracker in the King’s army. Alina, however, remained awkward and plain, an average cartographer at best. But everything changes after their unit travels into the Shadow Fold, a near-impenetrable darkness, filled with monsters that surrounds their war-torn country. She draws on a power that she never knew she possessed in order to save Mal and their friends. She is soon swept away into a new world of magic and politics. As the only known sun-summoner, she may be her country’s last hope for peace… or used as a tool of tyranny.
This review is based on an ARC provided by Netgalley.
Shadow and Bone was a rarity for me: a Russian-inspired fantasy world. The novelty alone might have been enough to hold my interest but it was also a well-written, thrilling novel about a fascinating heroine in a complex world.
The series is based on a rather intriguing system of magic. Grisha are discovered as children and raised in the little palace (in a rich parody of peasant life) in order train in history, combat and the little science that some call witchcraft. They have the power to manipulate the elements, to fabricate objects as no normal human can, to heal or to stop a man’s heart. Above them all is the Darkling, a powerful and near-eternal wielder of darkness. It is told that his ancestor is the one who plagued their country with the Shadow Fold. He is a charming, ambiguous character who made me think of Rasputin.
Alina, who has never been considered anything but worthless, comes into this tightly knit group as a grown woman with no knowledge of her own power. She is troubled by the jealousy of the other Grisha and the attentions of the Darkling and she struggles with her classes. Then just as she begins to find friends and a place in this new world, she becomes aware of the sinister plots under way. Things are constantly going from bad to worse for Alina but she struggles on. It’s all very exciting.
I feel a bit conflicted that Alina only finds true love after she comes into her power and becomes beautiful, as all the Grisha are beautiful. It’s a lovely, tragic romance between true friends but that one detail kept nagging at me. Still, as I can find no other fault with the book, however slight, I can give her lover the benefit of the doubt.
Shadow and Bone, the first book in the Grisha Trilogy, was released on June 5th 2012. I’m already excited to find out where Alina’s adventures will take her next.