Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Published June 5, 2012 by Henry Holt and Company 
Format: Audiobook (9hr 21 min)
Young Adult, Fantasy • Own Copy

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.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.


“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina” He said. “You and I are going to change the world.” 

I fell in love with Leigh Bardugo’s writing when I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom last year. I purchased the Grisha trilogy after I read those books; however, I didn’t feel a sense of urgency to pick them up until about two weeks ago when I saw the cover reveal for her new series, King of ScarsKing of Scars is based on a beloved character from the Grisha trilogy. As soon as I saw it, I immediately moved Shadow and Bone, the first book in the Grishaverse, to the top of my TBR.

Because I read the Six of Crows duology before this series and I’m familiar with Leigh Bardugo’s current writing style, I could tell this was a debut novel written before she found her groove. The world-building in Six of Crows is more descriptive and the characters are more complex and layered. Shadow and Bone is less detail, Ravka doesn’t quite jump off the page, and the story has a lot of tropes, but it’s still an entertaining introduction to the Grishaverse with a unique plot, magic system, and likable characters.

Shadow and Bone is narrated from the point-of-view of Alina Starkov. Alina and her best friend, Mal, are orphans who grew up together. They are both are tested by Grisha Examiners to see if they have Grisha abilities. They both join the Ravka army with Mal becoming one of the best trackers and Alina becoming a surveyor. Alina doesn’t know she has powers until she tries to save Mal when they’re attacked. Once her powers are revealed, Alina and Mal are separated. Alina is whisked away to the royal court for training. There she meets the Darkling and we’re introduced to a several secondary characters who play a role in helping Alina adapt to her new world.

Alina is a typical YA character. She’s naive, doesn’t trust herself, and is kind of a damsel in distress when we meet her. However, she’s a likable heroine and I loved her character development. I liked that the training didn’t come easy for her and how she grew into her powers. I loved her honesty as well as her friendship with Genya. I hated the way Genya was treated and that no one tried to intervene. I hope the other books in the series show more of that friendship because I love female friendships in books.

I know a lot of people on Bookstagram don’t like Mal, but I liked his character. He kind of toes the line between boring and forgettable because he was absent for most of the book, but I liked his friendship with Alina and the way they looked out for each other. I don’t care for him as love interest, but he went through a lot to find her after they were separated and used his tracking abilities to help her with her mission. I hope there’s more in store for his character.

The most interesting character in Shadow and Bone was the Darkling. The Darkling  is mysterious, layered, and a character I wanted more of. When he was initially introduced my immediate reaction was, “I want more of him!” Halfway through the book, I had to reconsider because I realized that he’s actually psychotic, selfish, and willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. I felt as naive as Alina. Why did I think someone named “Darkling” would be a good guy? Have you ever heard of a good guy named the Darkling? I haven’t. With two more books left in the series, I’m expecting (hoping?) him to evolve from a villain to an anti-hero.

I really enjoyed this book, but there were a few things I wasn’t crazy about. I didn’t like Alina’s obsession with the Grisha’s beauty. I was kind of annoyed by it because she mentioned their beauty often and/or compared herself to them; however, she grew and came to accept her own appearance towards the end of the book. As I mentioned, Shadow and Bone has a lot of tropes. There’s a love triangle, which isn’t too bad right now, but I hate love triangles and tend to avoid books with love triangles. I love friends-to-lovers tropes; however, I wasn’t crazy about Mal as a love interest for Alina. There wasn’t a lot of chemistry between the two plus it took a separation for him to realize that he has feelings for her.

I enjoyed Shadow and Bone so much more than I expected to. This was a fun read with a nicely paced plot, an interesting villain, and likable characters. I’m excited to continue the series because I can’t wait to meet the beloved character that King of Scars will be centered on in the next book.

If you’re in the mood for light fantasy with an intriguing villain, you’ll enjoy this.

Have your read Shadow and Bone? If so, what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

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18 thoughts on “Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  1. I don’t care hez the villain, I still love the Darkling more than anyone else… Nik comes a close second 😍😍
    Love your review and hope u have fun reading the next two books as well !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! Glad you enjoyed this! I agree with your thoughts on Alina, however she did annoy me quite a lot. The Darkling and Nikolai are two of my favourite characters!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read Shadow and Bone a couple of years ago and reading your review reminded me of how much I enjoyed the book. I also really liked the Darkling when he was first introduced and I hope to see how his character develops in the other books of the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can see why you enjoyed this! Like you say, this definitely was before Leigh Bardugo found her groove, but even her tropes and flaws weren’t nearly as bad as other series I’d read, and I found it a pleasant enough read. Kind of forgettable, but solid. 🙂 Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😂😂😂😂 Now that I think about, I think I tried to read this book last September when someone on Bookstagram hosted a readalong. Only read the prologue before I got distracted

      Liked by 1 person

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