Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
The correct term for my current condition is Tskdn;ieajnrja. It is a state in which the mind of a reader of young adult fiction is awesomely blown. I’ve lost all sense of decorum. You see, all I want to do is fangirl. That’s it. All the time. I come near the book and it’s a reaction — I just squeal and squeeze my hands to my heart and bat my lashes and swing side to side, breathe in air, breathe out wishful thoughts.
It’s a symptom, a side effect, a sickness, a who cares. I don’t mind that Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone has turned my brain to mush, or that it has limited my mental capacity to that of a tween girl. I’ve written notes and I have things to say, I just can’t piece them together to make enough sense that they would qualify as “readable”. But I must try. Because all of the above is mostly inspired by the irresistibly appealing quality of Mal. Yes, that’s right. I want him.
Fortunately, this book is also a very well-written story. We’ve got here an interesting alternate magical world of Grishas, and Darklings, of orphans, and kings; of greedy men, desperate mothers, a misled people, and young lovers. Alina is a great protagonist. She’s sharp, humble, outspoken, and willing to do anything if it’s right. She has a character arc because even while she’s always had a biting edge, she thoroughly undergoes trials and we are witness to her mental, physical, and emotional break down. But she picks herself up, dusts herself off, and off she goes.
This is also not without awesome back-up because I think I might be in love with most, if not all, of the secondary characters. Mal, the best friend, fellow orphan and tracker extraordinaire, is an effective male lead. He’s protective but never too affectionate. He doesn’t pamper Alina; he gives her what he knows she can take because he has faith in her. Genya, the beautiful servant to the queen, is the likeable girl friend — or rather the only friend Alina makes during her stint at the Little Palace. She’s gorgeous, sympathetic, snarky, and desperately in love with a geek. She knows her station in life and that makes me bleed for her. And the Darkling. I’m going to leave it there. These characters have their own stories to tell. They’ve earned the right to these pages — perhaps even more so than Alina in some respects. They each have a past they must deal with; secrets and demons they have to fight.
The storytelling is immensely sweeping. Bardugo has delivered a story of sacrifice and growing up, with magic and war and set it with the grandness of a fairy tale. The world building is fantastic. Her universe is fully formed and detailed. You’re not left without questions but seeing as I question the actual world we live in myself, I figured it was just another great feature to her writing.
Alina’s (and Mal) journey is complete; a full circle. In the end, they arrive where they were before but nothing is the same, their lives and their selves are shifted. The end reinforces what I’ve found to be the crux of the tale…home. Losing home, searching for home, yearning for home, having home. Alina and Mal have been given and taken home all their lives. They have lived and lost again as they did before they came to Kermazin, the orphanage where their destinies were eventually decided; as they are now, in the end. Orphans again. But not children, for they are no longer hiding from the older kids, or from Ana Kuya’s temper. No longer shadows they must avoid but true evil.
So, if you’ve heard the hype — and I’m sure you have — but have wondered until now if it really is worth the read…yup.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars
This review also appears on Goodreads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.