Book Review: Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Published: 2012
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: 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.

My Rating: Red-StarRed-Star 1/2

This book ended better than it started but not with sufficient buoyancy to keep it afloat. It is labeled as a fantasy novel for young adult readers but this is not a fantasy novel. For too much of the book we’re stuck in a sort of boarding/finishing school for gifted people called Grisha – there’s dresses, mean girls, and a plain protagonist which makes all the boys come to her yard. She’s also super special. And whiny. I didn’t realize why I couldn’t get into the story than halfway through I realized I came to read a fantasy novel and it was not that until page 280-something. Which is frustrating because a lot of scenes could have and should have been edited out.

I did not like our protagonist Alina. Alina, raised a peasant and a pauper suddenly gets thrown into a world where she’s basically a favorite of the Darkling – the sort of magical leader in this world. He’s dark, mysterious and enticing. Alina cannot help to be drawn to him (I laugh manically as I type this) despite her thoughts always drifting back to her childhood friend Mal. That’s when I realized that I was stuck in the middle of a love-triangle.

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I have such a huge problem with love-triangles because they’re written at the expense of 2 characters. One character is the one she will not choose and the other character is the protagonist. I am incredibly tired of women writing women to have such weak, flimsy wills. Though I can appreciate writing a female protagonist in a YA fiction that will be accessible to young girls I by no means feel that we need to downplay attributes that will make an inspiring character. Most of the time it feels as if YA stamps the identifiable label on female heroines versus the inspirational one.

Aside from this book lagging terribly in world-building and magic system along with a weak protagonist the weak and mediocre written did it no favors. The Darkling showed some promise early in the book but after page 280 that went downhill and we went into the realm of predictability. Mal came across as a slightly one-dimensional, I didn’t particularly feel for him and Alina’s lack of overall meat left her with little to no chemistry between her male contenders. So the love story between these two fell flat for me and I don’t really care if they defeat the Darkling and save the world.

I so wish I would’ve liked this more, I bought all the books looking forward to it and I don’t think I need to struggle through the first book for the series to actually ‘get good’. That is what lazy writing and incompetent editing looks like. Teens deserve a richer world than this, they deserve a heroine they can get behind instead of this generic formulaic ‘fantasy’ novel filled with tropes. The IDEA of Six of Crows was enticing at one point now I’m not so sure. I might just get it from the library and see if I enjoy it. Anyone has thoughts on the rest of the novels? Does the love triangle end for good in this book or is it dragged? Does Alina stop being helpless and whiny? I think these might sit on my shelf until I unhaul them…

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