I bought this book because it caught my eye when I was looking through Amazon’s Best of 2012, Editor’s Picks. The first novel in what is eventually scheduled to become The Grisha Trilogy, it is set in a fantasy world based on Tsarist Russian culture, history, geography, and mythology instead of the more common Anglo-Saxon and European sort. By the time we as readers first arrive in Ravka, a nation perpetually at war with its two neighbors, it has long had a dark , supernatural scar slicing through the nation’s heart, cutting off the capital from the all-important coast. This scar, the ‘Shadow Fold’ or ‘Unsea’, is a deadly place, full of flesh-eating monsters. One only crosses in the accompaniment of great force, and even then the best hope is not being noticed.
The story follows a 15-year-old orphan girl, Alina Starkov. She is an unremarkable, weak, unnoticed, melancholy insomniac. On a military journey through the Shadow Fold, Alina’s closest friend in the world (a boy named Mal) is about to be killed by one of the Unsea’s monstrosities. This is when — as is wont to happen at the beginning of fantasy stories about previously unremarkable orphans — Alina inadvertently unleashes a power from within herself that has been awaited for centuries.
It appears she may be the one destined to heal the Shadow Fold, but she can also be a powerful weapon. She is thrust into intrigue and danger, not knowing who can be trusted and who just wants to use her for evil ends. Only time will tell if she is the world’s salvation or damnation.
I enjoyed every page of Shadow and Bone. I had (I suppose still have) an idea for a novel about a broken creature summoned incorrectly to save a doomed world, who must wrestle with his own brokenness if he will ever truly do what he is capable of. Bardugo does a lot in this book that I day-dreamed about when I’ve thought about that story. I love the way Alina is at war with self-doubt, desire, and hope; as well as the way she comes alive when she starts leaning into what she is capable of. It resonated in a pretty deep place for me. Before I had even finished the book, I had already pre-ordered the second book in the Grisha Trilogy, coming this June: Siege and Storm