{Review} SHADOW & BONE by Leigh Bardugo

Happy Book Day to 
by Leigh Bardugo!!!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

THE SERVANTS CALLED THEM malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and  the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke's house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.

The boy and the girl had arrived within weeks of each other, two more orphans of the border wars, dirty-faced refugees plucked from the rubble of distant towns and brought to the Duke's estate to learn to read and write, and to learn a trade.  The boy was short and stocky, shy but always smiling.  The girl was different, and she knew it.
(pg. 1, US Hardcover 1st Edition)

SHADOW AND BONE was never a book I intended to read.  If I hadn't, I would have missed out on an amazing new entry in the fantasy genre.  I also read this right after being surprisingly blown-away by Marley Gibson's RADIATE, another book I was sent without requesting and hadn't anticipated liking.  I really need to learn that I don't always know best, don't I?

 When Macmillan sent me a shiny blue package indicating how excited they were for the title, I was excited too...until I read the back flap.  The first thing to turn me off was the line "...crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh."  It also mentioned words like "brutally" and "war-ravaged."  I was afraid the book was going to be super-violent.  Plus, the summary read as paranormal/supernatural, which is never my first choice.  I honestly put the book aside and forgot about it for a few months.  I began seeing reviews pop up on SHADOW AND BONE around the web and noticed people talking about how amazing the book was on Twitter and Goodreads.  Everyone kept calling it a fantasy, too, which wasn't what I would have called it based on the summary.  I decided to take a chance.  I'm incredibly glad I did.  So far, SHADOW AND BONE is one of my favorite books of the year.  After reading my ARC, I rushed out the next day and bought a gorgeous, finished copy.

The world of SHADOW AND BONE isn't nearly as dark and grim as I initially anticipated.  While their are hideous monsters, they're not the zombie/vampire/whatever-like beings I was anticipating.  Instead, I was reminded more of the monsters from Kristin Cashore's FIRE (Even though the two are nothing alike and this is a pale comparison).  Interestingly, Cashore's debut novel, GRACELING, one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels, also has a horrible (to me) summary that had me not wanting to read the book for almost a year!  I read an ARC of SHADOW AND BONE, which had no beautifully rendered map at the beginning.  That alone is reason enough to buy a finished copy, even if you were lucky enough to score an ARC!  I was able to imagine Leigh Bardugo's monstrous creations any way I wished.  Some of them are pictured on the map, and let me tell you--the creatures coming out of the Unsea look creeeeeeeeepy.

While SHADOW AND BONE is the first in a series, it could also work as a stand-alone.  I'm always thankful when there isn't an evil cliffhanger of doom laughing at me come the end of a book.  At the same time, I'm glad there will be more novels to come.  While the novel started out slowly, Bardugo's world unfurled and grew stronger the more I became immersed in the story.  By the end, I was truly rooting for Alina and couldn't wait to see her grow into her powers even more.  At the beginning of her journey, she's an ordinary girl, a junior cartographer's assistant in the King's Army.  When her regiment undertakes an expedition across the dangerous Shadow Fold that results in catastrophe, it is discovered that Alina has been harboring power that places her among the Grisha elite.  The kingdom has long been looking for a Sun Summoner to banish the Shadow Fold and unite the country once more.  Alina doesn't believe she has the power or ability to do all that is asked of her, fearing that the Darkling, ruler of the Grisha, is mistaken.  As she grows into herself and discovers more about the Grisha and what is expected of her, she's forced to make some hard, dangerous decisions in order to save the country she loves.

The book takes place in Ravka, which was inspired by Russian culture.  The only other time I've "experienced" Russia has been when watching the animated movie ANASTASIA, so it was intriguing to see a fantasy novel set in an alternate version.  When I read the book, I could picture the cold winters and visualize the garments worn.  I didn't know the names for things such as the Russian hats that are worn in the winter or the Russian terms such as the name for alcoholic beverages, so the use of language in SHADOW AND BONE added realism for me and made me feel as though I was in Ravka myself.  I also enjoyed reading about the world of the Grisha, who are more powerful than ordinary human beings.  Their place in society is determined by their magical abilities, which I found intriguing.  I loved nuances such as the colors worn by each caste and they way each one was introduced in court.  I would love to see more about the world the Grisha live in when we return to Ravka in future books.  Bardugo is talented when it comes to weaving together descriptions and showing us an original world full of fantasy and intrigue that's easy to become lost in.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Macmillan is so lucky to have designer Rich Deas on board.  So many of their amazing book covers are designed or orchestrated by him.  I was lucky enough to interview Rich in January as part of Marissa Meyer's CINDER Blog Tour, and I'm so eager to see what covers he comes up with next!

I love illustrated covers and wish there were more of them on YA titles.
The cover and interior design for SHADOW AND BONE is so elaborate that I filmed a video showcasing everything to show you.  Sometimes, I feel that video shows things off better than still images!  
There's an intricate map, design work at the beginning of each chapter, and a graphic alongside each page number.  Doesn't that alone intrigue you?
Check out this amazing work of art: 

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: Out June 05, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co/Macmillan
Received: Received for Review

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.


  1. I'm reading so many rave reviews of this book!!! I went out and tried to buy it but the bookstore didn't have it. Sad! I'm going to try again this week!

    The Russian cultural influences sound fascinating and fresh. I laughed when you said your experience with Russia was limited to the animated Anastasia, because that's probably about the same for me too! haha!

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews


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