Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Truthfully, I originally planned to go my whole life without reading The Grishaverse Trilogy because I’ve heard how it was subpar compared to the Six of Crows duology. Even after King of Scars was announced, I still planned to read the book without having read Shadow & Bone (I planned to just read a spoiler-y review or the wikia.) But after everyone exclaimed that reading Nikolai’s backstory in the OG series was a must, I considered giving it a try. 🌟 On top of that, Netflix announced a TV series adaptation of BOTH Shadow & Bone and Six of Crows so I knew what needed to be done.

I 🐯 had the fantastic opportunity to buddy read Shadow & Bone with two of my favorite people in the blogosphere, Fadwa from Word Wonders 🐺 and Lily from Sprinkles of Dreams 🐰. Fadwa already posted her review a while back, and she did a phenomenal job capturing most of my thoughts so definitely give hers a read too! Without further ado, here are my thoughts on Shadow & Bone.

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SHADOW AND BONE (THE GRISHA TRILOGY #1)  by Leigh Bardugo

PUBLISHED BY Henry Holt and Co (MacMillan) on June 5th, 2012

GENRES: Fantasy

PAGES: 352

ADD TO GOODREADS     //    BOOK DEPOSITORY

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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.

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First off, as much as I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing and world-building, this book is definitely weaker in terms of development in comparison to her SoC duology. However, that just means Leigh Bardugo has improved immensely as a writer. I’m extremely picky about pacing within books, and I don’t think the storyline was paced well. At times, it felt like there wasn’t a coherent sense a time. ⏳ The first half of the book dragged on and on when it was primarily about Alina learning about her powers and training while being in mopey mood while the second half flew by. Maybe this was purposely done to demonstrate how time is a social construct in this world, but it just didn’t work for me because it was hard to accept the fact that days could go by in mere sentences.

Additionally, the Ravka world-building could have used more development. Most of my understanding of the existing world came from the knowledge I gained through reading Six of Crows. While this world isn’t as interconnected, I would have been more lost if I hadn’t read SoC first. 🤷‍♀️ Certain aspects of the story are briefly explained but could have used more development. For example, the Fold is known to be a scary, shadowy danger ground inhabited by Volcra monsters, but I wanted more understanding of its existence.

“Thanks for being my best friend and making my life bearable. Oh, and sorry I fell in love with you for a while there.” 

Alina and Mal were very lovable characters. However, since I’ve been spoiled (Thanks, Twitter) I remained suspicious of Mal the entire time so I couldn’t fully love him. I think if I went into this book knowing nothing, I would have wanted to protect him more and ship him with Alina even harder. 🤔 Although I had a pleasant time getting to know both characters, I did find them rather dull and not as special as they’re probably meant to be. Their personalities felt pretty generic which made it more difficult to become invested in them as characters.

The Darkling’s character was interesting because he’s portrayed as the mysterious antihero. 🖤 He’s also a character I’ve heard a lot about from other bloggers on Twitter (lmao the memes) but never had the pleasure of meeting until now. While he’s not as cunning and interesting as Kaz Brekker (I know I’m sorry for more comparisons but I can’t help it), he does hold his own within this book. His morally grey side brings a fascinating perspective to the story, and I loved seeing how he battled with his own ideology and feelings.

If I’m being honest, this book gave me many similar feels to the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas. 🌹 I saw a few parallels between Alina and Ferye, Mal and Tamlin, and The Darkling and Rhysand. Of course, I know they’re entirely different characters, but during this first read, I felt that the vibe and overall mood were quite similar.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.” 

I can definitely see how this book made such a lasting impact and grew to be so popular when it was first released in 2012, but since I’m reading it almost 7 years later, I personally don’t love it as everyone else did back then. ☁ If I read Shadow and Bone when it first came out, I’m sure I would have given it 5/5 stars. I still plan on finishing the series, but I don’t know what to expect because I have heard that this book is the best one out of the three. Either way, I’m looking forward to see how Leigh Bardugo’s writing continues to improve!

Have you read Shadow and Bone? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments! 💕

28 thoughts on “Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  1. I was lowkey waiting for this post hahahaha! I have no idea what will happen to me if I reread the series. I read this in 2013? (You know how YA was that at that period.) I had been seeing a lot of reviews saying that it’s meh conpared with SoC and yes, yes, Leigh’s writing has developed immensely through the years. Now… I am kind of awakened haha, I only am picking up (again) ACOMAF sooo… I am now comparing these similarities you’ve mentioned. I still haven’t gotten that deep in the book yet. But we’ll see.

    (Alsooo ahhhh that Krystal gif thooo 🤗)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOLOL GOOD TO KNOW ❤ I definitely still want to keep reading because I want to see the full picture, but I wish I read it when it first came out because I know I would've loved it then. Then, I can reread SoC 👀 and OOO I've been kinda wanting to reread TOG so I get your mood. and hehehehe the Kdrama heart within me couldn't resist!

      Like

  2. It took me like, five tries to get past the first few chapters of this. I just couldn’t get into at all and when I did, it still wasn’t my favorite. There were a lot of things I liked, but it’s been so long I don’t even remember reading it until someone brings it up. But I really liked your review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, I have to say I agree with most of it! I read Shadow and Bone a few years ago, and I just couldn’t get into it, I was bored most of the time and I’m pretty certain I forgot most of what happened as soon as I finished reading it. I decided then to not continue with the series, and it’s the main reason I haven’t read Six of Crows even though I read amazing reviews of it because I don’t see myself reading it without having read the prequel series 😦

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  4. I just recently read this trilogy and I loved it. I have the first book 3.5 stars. I thought it was a great start to the trilogy. My favorite of the three was the second book and my least favorite book was the first one. I will say I saw a lot of reviews where people hated the second book because of the pacing which I agree with them it was slow but that didn’t keep me from loving it. I hope the series gets better for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an amazing review and I agree with it so much!! Yeah, Shadow and Bone is definitely one of the weakest of the Grishaverse books. Honestly the trilogy as a whole just doesn’t compare to Six of Crows haha. Although I will say I found that the second one (Siege and Storm) was much more enjoyable for me… mostly because you get to meet Nikolai😁 He makes the series a lot more fun. I hope you like it if you continue!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OOO Ok Someone else commented that they enjoyed Siege and Storm so much more, and hearing that you enjoyed it more makes me more excited now 🙂 I want to meet Nikolai!! I’m just trying to get to King of Scars ❤ Thank you so much for reading my review and being so supportive!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah same here about the Fold! I wanted to know more about it!

    I liked the Darkling until he started talking about no mercy and stuff and then…:/ Others have told me that I’ll get to know him more in later books so I have hope!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right?? I need more info!! I feel lost :O I know that it was briefly explained about its origins and stuff, but I still want more. I definitely get what you’re saying about the Darkling too, so hopefully, we both enjoy him more in the later books ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review, Tiffany! I had very similar thoughts about this one. I especially agree with what you mentioned regarding the pacing! This novel actually put me in a reading slump for a few months, because I couldn’t trudge through the beginning! But, reading the Shadow and Bone trilogy truly made ma appreciate how much Bardugo grew as a writer and storyteller! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I actually really loved Shadow and Bone when I read it (I think it was last year?). My favorite aspect of the book by far was the Russian-inspired world. Leigh is so good at creating such rich cultures and it made the story really immersive for me, and I also completely fell in love with the Darkling lol. I liked Alina enough, but I was never too into Mal.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wasn’t enamored by Shadow and Bone when I first read it. I didn’t really like any of the characters of enjoy much of the plot. In the next book there’s a character that I ADORE though, so that helped me continue on with the series.

    I think it’s really interesting that you’ve read Six of Crows first because it gives you a unique way of viewing all the events going on in Shadow and Bone, even without the spoilers.

    And I really liked your comparison to ACOTAR because to me both books were a bit lacking for the same reason. I didn’t feel much happened in the book. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the rest of the series though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OOOO Is that character…Nikolai 👀I’m actually very excited to start the next book because I want to see how the story progresses. It’s such a popular series so I’m excited to be in the know too 😅

      I think it’s def very interesting but now I feel like SoC was SO MUCH BETTER AGHHH. I think it’s also kinda weird because I’ve heard some of the mild spoilers on Twitter :O

      Right!! A lot of it and its vibe reminded me of TOG and ACOTAR, and it did lack in a similar way to ACOTAR. It was definitely interesting, but it felt also dull where not much really happened.

      Thank you for reading my review!

      Like

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