Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I was excited to read Shadow and Bone because the story seemed to have some Russian elements, and I love just about anything Russian. While the story does not take place in Russia, but in a fictional world, it does have prominent Russian cultural elements, which I enjoyed. The folklore seems to be a distinctive one envisioned by the author, and not recognizable as Russian in my inexpert opinion.
At first, it took a while for this book to engage my interest. I was a bit bored initially. I had to get a feel for the vernacular and the world, and not much seemed to be happening. I wasn’t sure I felt the connection between Alina and Mal. I understood they grew up together, but I didn’t understand why Alina was so fixated on him and Mal didn’t seem to feel the same way.
While I appreciated the world-building and the concept of the Grisha, I think that it needed more texture. I felt like the narrative scratched the surface and was rather vague. It also took a while to get invested in Alina’s character. I liked the concept of her power and how suppressing it had affected her body detrimentally. I loved seeing her gain a sense of confidence and for her self-esteem to grow. I appreciated The Darkling’s character. I was always waiting for him to show up. Sadly he was more developed in some ways than Mal was. I found the resolution with him predictable. I would have liked to see it go in a different direction. Maybe he didn’t have to live up to everyone’s bad opinions of him. As for Mal, even at the end, I can’t say I grew to like him that much. I wanted to like him because Alina loves him so much. I just didn’t. I liked Alina’s character, but I wanted to feel for her more and know her on a deeper level.
At first I was going to give this four stars, because I liked the Russian elements so much and it’s an interesting idea, but I realized the execution wasn’t quite as good, and I had to adjust my rating accordingly. I feel that the writing needed to do a better job of drawing me in and conveying intensity and I think the descriptions of the places, specifically the concept of the Fold, could have been more fleshed out. With this kind of idea and subject, this story really could have had more impact than it did. In the end, it was a diverting, interesting read, but it didn’t set me on fire or get to my heart like I would have liked. If my library gets the rest of the series, I will definitely check it out, because I’d like to follow Alina’s story.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.
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