Book Review | Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was really unsure about this book at first, but after hearing some readers on YouTube talk about it, I wanted to give it a try.

For some odd reason, I’ve always wanted to learn the Russian language and was able to take one semester of the language at my university. I fell in love with it and learning about the culture and was quite sad that I wasn’t able to continue the courses due to student teaching. So when I heard about this YA fantasy novel that has some Russian influences, I was definitely intrigued.

I enjoyed this novel. I flew through it. I started it last night and read one hundred pages before heading to bed. I finished the book around noon today. It is definitely an easy read. The font is by no means small and the pages have large margins. The language in which it was written is easy to understand. It has a Lexile score of 800L, which puts it in a 7th – 9th grade reading level. Click here for more about Lexile scores

Shadow and Bone follows a young girl in the fictional, but Russian inspired Ravka, who accidentally discovers a secret power within her that has the capability of saving Ravka and its people. She must harness this power and learn the Grisha subculture in order to bring peace to her country.

This novel, for the most part, follows the YA fantasy formula. The main character is a female that views herself as undesirable (don’t we all?) and is unaware of how important she is for the sake of her country. While there are technically two love interests involved, this is not your typical YA love triangle (thank goodness) and I believe it will set up some interesting plot points in future novels.

Bardugo did an excellent job at creating the world of Ravka and its neighboring countries. She included a map at the beginning and I caught on quickly. After awhile, when they said they were heading north of the mountains, I knew exactly where they were going.

The characters were also developed better than I thought they would be. At the beginning, I wanted to smack some of them for their immaturity and naivety. But, by the end of the novel, they seemed to go from being absolute twits to being twits who can articulate their feelings rather than sitting and brooding about it. Like I said, it was better than I thought it would be.

The Russian influence is very obvious, but readers need to remember that the language and culture merely inspired the author in the creation of Ravka. Ravka =/= Russia.
– There are similarities and differences in the naming of cities and characters. The main character is named Alina Starkov. Because surnames are gendered in Russia, her last name would be Starkova. However, this is not Russia, this is Ravka. The roots are similar, but names are not gendered. The author has stated that this was intentional, not oversight.
Kvas – Квас is a drink that is only slightly alcoholic, but in this novel, it is synonymous with vodka. Once again, this was intentional. Look at the Lexile rating. A lot of parents do not want their 7th – 9th graders reading about people drinking lots of vodka throughout the book. Kvas implies it rather than specifically states it.
– Some of the words sound Russian, but only have Russian prefixes/suffixes. For example, when people are addressing the Darkling, they say “moi soverennyi.” Sovereign + Russian suffix.
– Also, moi is the masculine of “my” and the Darkling is male. This works. Like when they address the queen and use the feminine of my “moya.” Also works. *thumbs up*
(Bardugo talks about this kinda of stuff here)

Overall, I thought this to be a nice plot, even though it was predictable. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away as a twenty-five year old, but I can see my middle school students loving this fantasy.

As soon as I can get my hands on the next one, I’ll definitely be reading it. Эта книга очень хорошо. 🙂

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