I’ve had Shadow and Bone on my TBR for such a long time, but hearing how everyone seemed to think that Six of Crows was so much better, I never really felt motivated to pick it up. Not until I saw the trailer for the new Netflix series and urgently felt the need to read this series before it comes out! Due to all the mixed opinions, I still went into the book with low expectations though, only to be so pleasantly surprised by this thrilling and magical read with amazing and complex characters to root for!
This book hooked me in a way I hadn’t expected, with its magical world-building that was something of a mix between Russian folklore and mythology, topped with characters to love and hate, a lot of twists, a chosen-one-trope with the orphan girl Alina Starkov finding her powers and trying to save the world, adventures and a sweet romance threatened by a bad guy intervention (the infamous the Darkling…).
The story in itself was perhaps not a very unique one for a YA fantasy, with the poor ugly duckling who is not aware of her powers, but who turns into one of the most powerful persons in the kingdom and is forced to take on the epic task to fight evil and finally get seen for who she is by everyone, including her old childhood crush. But the world-building and the mix between mythology, militarism and the complex characters created a truly spellbinding story. The thing that made this book absolutely stand out though were the complex characters. They were so unique and interesting, mean but kind, bad but also good, and the all added so much depth to the story. I always appreciate the suspense when the villains and heroes are not at all who they seem at first. I adored Alina from the very start and I loved to see her growing from insecure to strong and sassy, but also how relatable she was in her struggles to find her place in the new world. I’m not so sure about either Mal or the Darkling though. Mal felt a bit bland and I didn’t like that he only started to really notice Alina when the Darkling took interest in her, but hopefully he’ll grow on me as the series continues. As for the Darkling I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. I think he was cruel and manipulative, but I must confess that he did intrigue me nevertheless, so maybe I will end up under his spell too eventually... I also think that the romance parts could have been a bit more spicy, with more build-up tension, but all in all it was a rather well executed love triangle.
In the middle of the book, the pace felt much slower and some parts were a little boring. But on the other hand, I enjoyed that the slower pace allowed for some great character growth and more insights into the Grishaverse.
All in all, Shadow and Bone was a great first book that set a brilliant foundation that got me completely addicted to this series and its characters. I’ll be picking up Siege and Storm right away, too intrigued to wait a second longer than necessary to what I can only guess is still to come!
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