Monday, December 31, 2012

SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone is the first novel in the Grisha Trilogy, which follows a girl named Alina in a land where magicians called Grisha serve the king. Alina and her longtime friend Mal both serve in the non-magical division of the army, but they are attacked by volcra (monsters) and then miraculously saved by Alina's latent magical power. The Darkling, the most powerful magician in the land, takes an interest in Alina, and training and heroics follow.

I loved the world in this. It was an interesting combination of fantastical but very real. Not real in a grit-and-grime, you-see-every-pockmark-on-the-whores kind of way, but all of the characters seem to solidly belong there and know what’s going on in their own land. There was just enough detail in the clothing, geography, etc that I felt comfortable in it. The magic system, too, was really comprehensive. I loved all of the details and rules for the different kinds of magic-users, even down to the clothes they wear.

Alina was a well-rounded protagonist who annoyed me a bit at first but she is developed very well through the course of the book, and easy to root for. It was frustrating that she couldn't manage to make any friends. I really want her to have a girl BFF, but every time she met a female she was all, “omg they haaaaaaate me.” She DOES befriend Genya (who I loved) but that didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, either.

The “love triangle” in this book was awkward because, for me, the Darkling was so much more complex and fascinating than Mal. In fact, he interested me above and beyond most everyone except for Genya. I loved her and the Darkling, probably more than Alina and Mal. I'm not saying the book should have been about them (but the book should have been about them (just kidding (mostly))). I also really loved Baghra, the teacher. I have a fondness for characters who kick protagonists in their hesitating-and-reluctant behinds.

I really disliked Mal, but I am hoping in future books that will change. It's hard to present a character, who is obviously well-loved by the main character, but whom we never see do anything particularly nice or heroic and then have him disappear for a large part of the book, and still expect us to like him. My frequent reaction to him was "Wow what a jackass". I think the author did her best to give us some good things about Mal, mostly through Alina’s memories, but I mostly only cared about him at all because Alina did, rather than for his own sake.

I liked the beginning and ending chapters a lot, their tone and style and how they brought the story into a full wraparound. The only thing that kinda ruined that effect was the climax. Boy howdy did I hate the climax. The climax accomplished almost nothing. In the end, it feels like the entire novel is just a giant prologue for the rest of the series/trilogy. We've gotten to know the characters, what's at stake, and who is working for Good and who is working for Evil, but nothing has really been accomplished except training and development (really great character development in this book, if I didn’t mention that) all around for everyone.

I gave Shadow and Bone four out of five stars. I really enjoyed it, in spite of my complaints, and I’m looking forward to more from this author.

PS: Someday someone will write a book about a cartographer who has adventures and solves their problems with geographical and topographical knowledge and their skill with crafting maps. And I will squeal with giddy joy.

1 comment:

Jasmine Stairs said...

"you-see-every-pockmark-on-the-whores" -- aka, the GRRM special!

And we should write the cartographer story. Together. Yep.

I've just started reading this, and the Darkling is freaking me out. He's so TOUCHY.