Backlist Bonus: Shadow and Bone

10194157by Leigh Bardugo
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel – June 5, 2012

When I picked up this book a few years ago I couldn’t believe it – old school fantasy maps are coming back? YA fantasy from a female first person perspective? A world based on Russian mythology with nods to Russian architecture and names? Most of all – a villain that is around for more than harping on about his world domination plans? A sexy antagonist with a backstory and complexity? Fresh world, fresh magic, fresh characters – I was enthralled.

Although it took some time to warm up to Alina, all the elements more than made up for her moments of indecision and self-pity. More female friendship would have been nice too, but that improves throughout the trilogy. What I really liked about this story was Alina discovering with us how magic works and what you can do with it. They use the elements (fire, air, water) but magic also has tinges of spirituality. “Like calls to like,” if you keep your mind clear. Your power will connect to you and work for you if you understand its nature. Alina has to harness her power for the good of her country, but she doesn’t feel particularly indebted to Ravka (she’s a poor orphan soldier, taken by the Darkling to study magic), and the politics of the royal court don’t suit her either. All she really wants is to be with her best friend, Mal, which becomes more difficult as she advances.

Getting acquainted with the Darkling is the real treat of this story. One of the more unique antagonists I’ve encountered, he’s a character that winds through the story as Alina tries to determine his true motivation. Their scenes are the best and always leave you wanting more. This is an excellent fantasy adventure that maintains its energy and mystique throughout the trilogy.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Shadow and Bone is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Another first person fantasy novel in a unique world governed by Rhythms and Seasons. Meira wants to save her fallen kingdom, Winter, but isn’t prepared for her true destiny. See my review here.
  • Fire Arrow by Edith Pattou – A teenage archer seeks revenge for her father’s murder and must defeat an evil sorcerer – if the deadly power of the fire arrow doesn’t destroy her first. This is an older story and a sequel to Hero’s Song.
  • The Whim of the Dragon by Pamela Dean – The conclusion of this trilogy is filled with magic and betrayal. The four cousins who found themselves in the magical land they made up as a game must figure out how to fulfill their roles, and whether they will destroy their creation to escape.
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – A genre-mashing novel told from 19-year-old Paige’s perspective. A clairvoyant in a country where clairvoyance is illegal, she finds safety in London’s underworld until agents of the government find her–and reveal a world hidden within her own. See my review here.
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – This companion novel takes the magic and mayhem to the next level! Six criminals, the ultimate heist, betrayals, and the fate of the world hanging in the balance. See my review here.

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