Warning: Spoiler alert ahead, if you have not read this book!
“Shadow and Bone” is a new fantasy series that has gained popularity over the past year with the premiere of the Netflix series of the same name. I had never heard of this series before watching the show on Netflix, but I was intrigued by the plot: that a part of the world is overtaken by a dark space called the Shadow Fold. Normally, I do not read many fantasy novels. The last series I think I read of this nature was Twilight. However, I found this book really intriguing. I think it had such an original idea, one I’ve not heard of before.
Here is the book’s description:
“Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her 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 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.”
I really liked the main character of Alina, although there were moments when she reminded me of Bella Swan from Twilight. But I think Alina is somewhat more independent than Bella, so I liked her more. Twilight similarities aside, I think that this series is one that could be really good depending on how Bardugo writes the other books.
Mal is Alina’s best friend and her only family. They grew up in the same children’s home for orphans, and Alina has always had romantic feelings for him, although Mal has never reciprocated those feelings. In the book, Mal isn’t shown much except for the beginning when Alina saves him from the Shadow Fold, so throughout the book when Alina thinks of how much she misses him, I didn’t feel too bad for her since she hadn’t heard from him. He does return towards the last quarter of the book, where I got a bit more of a picture of his personality. Although a little rough around the edges, I liked that Alina makes Mal a better person.
In contrast, the Darkling acts as a mentor and protector to Alina after her magic is discovered. He brings her to the Little Palace where she learns to wield her power and becomes immersed in the world of Grisha training. He does have Twilight Edward vibes by always wearing black, saying mysterious and vague things, and showering Alina with beautiful, black clothing.
I wasn’t really a fan of the little love triangle between Alina, Mal, and the Darkling. In the Netflix series, the Darkling’s name is General Kirigan, which I think made him seem more human. In the book, he doesn’t have a name other than the Darkling, and that made me skeptical of him from the beginning. I didn’t think he ever was on the same level as Alina, and I wasn’t convinced of his feelings for her, even having watched the series before reading the book. I feel like the author tried too hard to play into this romantic love triangle, and I think the book could have felt more original had the Darkling remained as an older more experienced mentor/protector or father figure, especially since Alina is an orphan. That’s just my opinion though!
I don’t want to give away the ending, but you can probably guess that the Darkling turns out to not be who he says he is. This really wasn’t a surprise to me, considering everything about him symbolizes evil. I did like the contrast though between him and Alina’s innocence. Although a bit simplistic, the triumph of good over evil and light over dark will always be a good theme for any book. But I think that the Darkling could have been more fleshed out and have more layers considering how old he is.
Overall, I think this book is worth reading if you are a fan of fantasy.This book is also fairly short, so you won’t spend a year trying to get through it. I liked the pace of the novel, too, and Bardugo’s writing style. There weren’t any moments in the novel that I felt dragged on or were boring. I definitely think the Netflix series is more interesting than the book, and I look forward to the second season. I’m not sure if I will continue on to the second book of this series, “Seige and Storm,” but we’ll see.
If you have read this book or have seen the Netflix show, what did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!