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.
I was not expecting to read any more books this year. I generally take December off of reading, or I revisit old favorites. There’s just so much going on this month, and I’m too distracted to read. Then Trish just had to mention how good this was on Facebook. I remembered seeing it go through the library’s system here, but I wasn’t sure if it sounded interesting or too silly/paranormal/out there for me, so I hadn’t put it on hold. Trish convinced me to do otherwise, and the book arrived a few days ago. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.
The book is not at all silly. Nor is it terribly paranormal, or inaccessible. It was really a fantastic book! Great characters, great world-building, great magic system, great relationships, great twists, perfect pacing, and an end that felt closed enough for the first book of a trilogy. I loved Alina and Mal both, and learning about their friendship from childhood on up. The Grisha were fascinating. The magic system made sense and had reasonable boundaries. And I loved the Darkling, even if maybe I wasn’t supposed to love him. I didn’t trust him, but I loved him all the same, and I hope that in further volumes of the series, we get to know him better, because I think there’s more to him than is revealed here. He seems a much more complex person than what’s presented on the surface. I have lots of theories and ideas, but I won’t say anything more, to avoid going into spoiler territory.
Shadow and Bone made a great last-book-of-2012 for me. I am so glad I listened to Trish and grabbed it from my library. I have a feeling it’s one I’ll reread several times before returning it, and I can tell my brain is going to be grappling with all the twists and turns and possible theories about this one for quite a while.
Revisited in May 2013: Loved this book so much the first time that I had to read it again, soon! Plus, I was anticipating the release of Siege and Storm. Absolutely adored it the second time around as well! Not much else to add. My opinions and theories only solidified with the reread.
Review of the audiobook, 2/9/14: While I still love this story, I didn’t like the audio performance at all. The accents didn’t sound right (too stereotypical, maybe?), and it was never clear to me which accent belonged to which person. I couldn’t keep the voices straight. If they changed partway through the book, I’d never have noticed. Also, the narrator pronounced “fete” like “fate,” which drove me crazy. I definitely will continue to read this series in print.
Note: When I originally added the audio review to the end of this post, I didn’t make note of the narrator’s name, so I do not know who the performer is. Amazon lists Lauren Fortgang as the narrator, so that’s probably her, but I cannot say for sure.