Leigh Bardugo released her novel “Shadow and Bone”. In the novel, Alina Starkov is an orphaned nobody of a town so small, that it’s absent from most maps. At age 16, she’s a mapmaker in the First Army. The only reminder of her past is her friend, Mal, a fellow orphan from the area she’s from and a tracker in the First Army.
When Alina and Mal’s regiments are told they are crossing the Fold, a shadowy swath of land dividing the country of Ravka and filled with terrifying creatures known as volcra, they know there’s a chance they won’t survive.
Not only do they both survive, but Alina is revealed to be a Grisha, a magical elite group led by the Darkling. The Darkling, seeing how her power could destroy the Fold, whisks her away to Os Alta, the capital of Ravka.
Separated from Mal and in a foreign place, Alina feels more alone than ever. Friendless and snubbed by the other Grisha, she grows close to the Darkling. After all, they are both one of a kind.
As Alina trains and gains control over her newfound power, through working with Baghra – her teacher, the Darkling begins to realize something; it will not be enough to fully destroy the Fold. Drawing inspiration from ancient myths, the Darkling sets out to find a mystical stag whose antlers are said to amplify a Grisha’s power. After months of fruitless searching, the Darkling calls on Ravka’s best tracker: Mal.
Alina is reunited with Mal, but it isn’t the reunion how either expected. Unhappy, Alina walks off, but is intercepted by Baghra. Baghra reveals to her the Darkling’s true intentions.
With this new knowledge, Alina goes on the run, evading capture by the Darkling’s men. That is until she is found by Mal, who was ordered off the search for the stag in order to find her. Alina reveals to him what Baghra told her and the pair go looking for the stag together.
After a week of Mal picking up on traces of the stag, he finds it. In doing so, he leads the Darkling directly to them, resulting in several events that change the course of Alina’s life and the course of life as it’s known in Ravka.
Full of magic and betrayal, this book left me gasping every time the unexpected happened. Bardugo is truly a master of plot twists. In regard to character development, it left a little to be desired. Mal’s character never really changed; more things were revealed that accentuated his personality, but he was overall very static. Alina’s character becomes rather repetitive, but – I know this for a fact – she grows a lot more in the other two books in the trilogy. The plot of this book developed very slowly towards the middle but picked up the pace as the end neared. Bardugo’s writing style keeps the reader intrigued until the very end. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s difficult not to pick up the next book as soon as you’ve finished the first one.
This book is one I would recommend for new fantasy readers, veteran fantasy readers or anyone who can read. It appeals to people who like romance, jealous lovers and unexpected rejections. It appeals to people who enjoy stories about underdogs and those who like a well-developed plot and pretty well-developed characters.
Overall, I give it a 4/5 stars.