Leigh Bardugo’s debut Shadow and Bone welcomes a new era of fantasy romance

The book features a young girl who is separated from her only friend and must adapt to her new life after discovering her extraordinary power that could save the world.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Macmillan Publishers
358 pages

The very first book that was published by Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone is an intriguing read with hidden and exciting mysteries waiting for the readers to discover. The book clearly emphasizes the emotional impacts of disastrous and heart-breaking events on the characters’ development. Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy debuted in 2012 and the next two books were published in 2013 and 2014. The protagonist of the book, Alina Starkov, is a young and adventurous orphan. She grew up with her best friend, Mal, and has a secret crush on him. At the time, Alina and Mal are part of the common army and were ambushed in the Shadow Fold, a dark expanding division of territory. However, when the two are separated, Alina undergoes training as Grisha at the royal court. Grisha are the magical elites in this world who are under the command of the very powerful and mysterious being, the Darkling.

The Darkling is a character that is powerful yet mysteriously independent. Readers will be intrigued by his mysterious past that Bardugo hints throughout the book and keep them on the tips of their toes. Upon discovering Alina’s extraordinary power, he took her in and trained her with the hopes of her become the key to accomplish his goal of destroying the Fold. The two become closer to each other as their training progresses Those who like romance will be sure to enjoy the relationship that develops between the Darkling and Alina as their relationship sprouts.

Alina had no interest in anything apart from Mal, then faced internal conflicts as her attraction to the Darkling grew and yet still maintaining her feelings for Mal. She was a sun summoner, a unique Grisha that can manipulate light at will. Yet Mal was only a common soldier with no special powers whatsoever. That separated Mal and Alina both physically and in status. Mal was someone who was always there when Alina needed him, and stuck together in their childhood. On the other hand, the Darkling is the leader of the Grisha and the most powerful of men. He lives in a completely different world compared to Mal with the Grisha under his command. His responsibilities are far greater than that of Mal’s. After Alina was taken to the royal capital, she became more accustomed to her power and realizes that her country is in grave danger due to the corruption of the Shadow Fold and its ability to segregate the world.

Alina is a unique, lost, and challenging character. She is unique with her power to summon light, the first and only person to ever do so. She has such a great power yet she does not know what to do with it. Unlike the Darkling, Alina does not have a purpose or goal in life, and only wants to stay next to Mal. She is quite challenging as a person, especially when she was taken away to the royal court, she attempted to escape several times. Alina’s character development with respect to maturity only drew my attention even more, as she become more dignified and conscious of what was truly happening to her country over the course of the book. Each chapter would give Alina the opportunity to make choices and potentially evolve from her experience. Therefore it was intriguing to read the next chapter since every chapter Alina became more brilliant than the last.

One aspect of Shadow and Bone in which Alina faces internal struggles is her development of feelings for the Darkling despite the remnants of her childhood love. The Darkling is the most powerful man alive, has tremendous power and of course, handsome. As Alina describes, “He had a sharp, beautiful face, a shock of thick black hair and clear gray eyes that shimmered like quartz.” Their encounter and responsibilities almost brought the two together by fate, since the Darkling was in need of great power in order to defeat the dark forces in this world and only Alina possessed the powers that would allow him to do so. On the other hand, Mal was the only family Alina ever had and loved her ever since they were children. How strong can a bond of childhood love be? Can it be severed and replaced by the appearance of an extraordinary individual?

This book is written in first person point of view, making it easy to synchronize with the protagonist since her thought processes are clearly portrayed. Readers can also emphasize with Alina when her internal struggles were discussed. Books with multiple points of views such as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus sequel may sometimes be unclear and difficult to follow. However, writing in first person is far more straightforward and clear compared to the unorganized and confusing narration between multiple characters and their thoughts and feelings.

Unlike some fantasy novels, Shadow and Bone does not focus on the political perspectives and impacts of the kingdom which Bardugo created. Rather, Bardugo chooses to focus on the internal conflicts caused by the love triangle the character faces throughout the story. By doing so, Bardugo adds multiple layers to the novel, enhancing the reading experience since the conflicts are not only physical, but internal as well.

As the first novel of the Grisha Trilogy, Shadow and Bone is an intriguing start to the ongoing series which engages readers in the fantasy world of powerful magicians and their journey to defeat the darkness of the world that strikes fear into the hearts of the citizens. From the perspective of Alina Starkov, readers can emphasize with the internal struggles that she must overcome in order to mature into a passionate young woman of great power and save her country. If you are a fan of dramatic romance and an electrifying adventure, this novel is a perfect balance of the two. Along with a diverse cast of supporting characters, the relationships built surrounding Alina amplifies the reading experience as her character develops.

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