So overall I really enjoyed this book. I loved the world that Leigh Bardugo is creating here with the different types of Grisha’s and such but I did feel like quite a bit was left unanswered. I have heard though that some of those unanswered questions get answered in the next installment (Siege and Storm) which I’ve started to read now so I guess we’ll find out soon! But here are my thoughts on Shadow and Bone to tie you over until then.
Plot: Basically the story follows our protagonist Alina who was an orphan all grown up now and working as a map maker for the first army. She has a long time crush on her childhood best friend who was also an orphan and grew up in the same orphanage as Alina. He though, has grown up to be handsome and charming while Alina is plain and sickly looking so of course he’s off partying with his friends and she’s left to pine after him. Now, here it gets complicated, Mal (the best friend) works as a tracker for the first army and we meet our duo in chapter one as they’re traveling with the army to cross ‘the fold.’ This is basically a strip of land completely plunged into darkness and infested with flying people eating monsters. Why are they needing to cross this dark monster infested land? Because on the other side are supplies that they desperately need to keep their country running. So, they are crossing the fold and when things go awry Alina lights up like the sun and the monsters fly away and she saves the day only to pass out and wake up in time to be marched in front of the Darkling. Who is the Darkling? Oh we’ll get to that but for right now you can think of him as the leader of the army. Now, when they find out that Alina is a very powerful Grisha they cart her off to the ‘little palace’ where she is to be trained to harness her Sun Summoning powers so that she can destroy the darkness of the fold.
So, I really liked this plot line but honestly I felt like there was too much thrown at us in the first chapter. Leigh Bardugo did not ease us into this world she just threw us in and expected us to keep up. The characters were immediately tossing out terms and names of places and people that you had no idea what was what. It was all very confusing and it wasn’t until chapter three that you really begin to catch on. I feel like this hindered the character development a bit. I was so worried about understanding what was even going on that I never properly connected with Mal and Alina’s relationship at the beginning. This leads us to my next section, characters.
Characters: I did really like Alina but I will be honest, I hated Mal. I thought he was a pompous jerk and even though Alina has a mad crush on him at the beginning and remembers all these great times they had together I just don’t see the relationship in Mal’s actions. He completely disregards her and her feelings as he fraternizes with his friends and gawks after beautiful Grisha girls right in front of Alina. Not only that but once he finally comes back into the picture after three quarters of the book he has the gall to be mad at her? She was the one that got hauled off like cattle and he’s angry at her? Obviously I was annoyed with his character. I did enjoy Alina’s character and the development that happens with her as she grows from a timid and insecure girl to a confident and powerful Grisha. I loved that. Even though I was annoyed with the fact that she immediately forgets her new confident self the moment she sees Mal again which is another reason why I dislike his character. Now, the Darkling on the other hand, though his motives are questionable, always encouraged Alina to be her best self. He pushed her to be powerful but was patient with her when she wasn’t meeting the expectation. I really enjoyed his character, he was dark and sexy and mysterious and powerful and I was hella disappointed when he turned evil. Though I knew it was coming, I still didn’t like it.
Love interest: I REALLY WANTED THE DARKLING AND ALINA TO END UP TOGETHER! I shipped that. I shipped that hard and was SO DISAPPOINTED THAT SHE WENT BACK TO MAL! I am really trying to be okay with it but I just really dislike him. He’s boring and he treats Alina like she’s still his little orphanage playmate and she reverts right back into it! The one thing I will say about Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship in ACOMAF/ACOWAR is that Sarah J Maas has a good way of making them feel like EQUALS. Rhys is always considerate of Feyre but encourages her to be her best self. This is why Mal annoyed me. He doesn’t want Alina to be powerful he wants her to be the orphan girl he knew when he was a kid and it’s so disheartening when you see Alina playing into that. All she does is dote on him and I wonder if he just doesn’t like that she doesn’t need him to protect her anymore? I don’t know.
All in all, I devoured this book. I loved the world and Alina’s growth though I’m annoyed with how the love story is turning out but we’ll see how things progress in the next installment.
Until next time here’s a quote from the book to get you through:
The Darkling slumped back in his chair. “Fine,” he said with a weary shrug. “Make me your villain.”
― Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone