AKA The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book:
For the past several months, I've been part of a book-lending tour de force. A group of authors, myself included, have waited patiently as a single ARC of Shadow And Bone made its way from one of us to another. I waited. And I waited. I tried to be patient, but it was really, really hard. As time passed, I heard more and more people on Twitter and Goodreads and blogs raving about this book—which still hadn't made its way to my mailbox.
Then, the day finally came.
Shadow And Bone was in my mailbox. No, it was in my hands. Pages were being turned and the rest of the world became dull and quiet. I was immediately transported to a far away land, like Russia but then again not like Russia. I have missionary friends who lived in Moscow for a long time and they would come home every year with stories that made me long to see the country for myself. Bardugo's Ravka should not be confused with modern-day Russia and I think it's important for readers to realize this going into the book. The author has created something like Russia, but even richer because of its added fantasy elements. The setting reminds me a bit of the 18th century, mainly because of the means of transportation and clothing—and oh, please don't get me started on the clothing. I could go on for pages about Bardugo's lovely descriptions of the wardrobes, the landscapes, the magic...and the romance.
This is epic fantasy, after all. Something we don't get to read that much anymore, unless we're reading something written 15 years ago.
One of things that impressed me most about this book was its artistic nature.
There is the beautiful cover, the amazing map, the gorgeous chapter headings and details on every page. I was an artist for many years and studied fine art in college, so I always notice when something is finely crafted. And this book is. But I'm not just talking about the publishing technique. I'm talking about the writing too.
The novel is bookended by two chapters written in omniscient POV, and the style has an almost fairy tale quality to it. From the first page, I was hooked. Then, when you get to the first chapter, the story is now being told in first person, from the viewpoint of Alina Starkov. Here again, we get another artistic nod when we discover that Alina is a cartographer. It's her job to draw sketches of the landscape as she travels with a large military regiment, all of them heading toward the dark, mysterious Shadow Fold that now divides the country of Ravka, separating those who live inland from the coast.
I don't want to say too much about the story itself. You have the synopsis below. But I must tell you, there is a major plot twist, combined with a surprising character reveal that will both surprise and, if you're like me, terrify you. You'll suddenly be on the edge of your seat, gripping the book with white-knuckled hands. And at that point the feeling that you were in a safe carriage, traveling across a lush foreign landscape will vanish.
You'll feel like the horses have run off, the driver's been shot and you and the carriage are now careening down a mountainside, completely out of control.
There will be an example of evil, so seductive and deceiving and, at the same time, completely believable, that it will astonish you. Then, hopefully you'll realize that this is what evil truly is. To me, as a reader, this depiction of true darkness is what makes this book so brilliant. Bardugo isn't just telling a pretty story about a teenage girl with a surprising ability. She's telling a metaphoric tale about our daily battle against the evil that surrounds us and threatens to overwhelm us. She's honest about the fact that we will make mistakes, but there will always be the possibility for redemption. And even though we stumble, we should never give up fighting the good fight.
This is the type of book that will stay with you, long after you read it. You may read it quickly, because it has an almost intoxicating effect. But you will never forget it.
Shadow And Bone is a five star, must-read.
And I can't wait for the next book in the series.
You can purchase the book here, here, here and here.
The lovely Leigh Bardugo:
Shadow And Bone synopsis:
Book One of the Grisha Trilogy
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 unlikely 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.
Interior page of book, which delineates the three different categories of the Grisha, also known as Masters of Small Science:
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