Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold—a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.
Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite—and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.
As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.
Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.
Amazon Link: Shadow and Bone (Shadow & Bone #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars
This was my first time reading this series before the TV series came out and I was excited to try it. I’ve been reading several books lately that were inspired by Russian/Slavic folklore, which is a refreshing change from the more common types of fantasy. The technology seems vaguely steampunk but it doesn’t try to lean into that too hard.
First of all, I think a lot of people misjudge this book. On the surface, it seems to have some YA Fantasy cliches like the female protagonist is the Chosen One, she goes from being an ugly outcast to being beautiful and popular, and there seems to be a love triangle with two male characters vying for her attention. But there is much more going on and these tropes aren’t what they seem. (Especially the love triangle. I thought it was obvious from the start that the Darkling was only manipulating Alina.)
But like much of YA fantasy, Alina’s emotions are a big part of the story. She is thrust into a new world unexpectedly and has to make her own way. I found her relatable and I wanted to see her succeed, especially as she grew in confidence. The Darkling was obviously bad news from the beginning but I could see how she was vulnerable to his manipulation. It was satisfying when she finally learned to stand up for herself and break away from his control.
It’s a little disappointing that there’s a lack of diversity in the original book. I love that the author branched out in later books and then went back to change things for the TV adaptation. She learned and now she’s working to do better.