Release Date: Out now!
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
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 Gold 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 isi 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 looking 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.
SHADOW AND BONE was one of the most anticipated YA books this year of 2012. Review after review, five stars after five stars, I've read nothing but amazing things for this debut novel, and combining those reviews with such a beautiful, dark, mesmerizing and an enchanting book cover into the hyped-up book world, it's no wonder why so many had such high praises for this book alone because it was one of those rare but beautiful gems that I was happy to announce was an absolute pleasure to read!
Leigh Bardugo's writing for starters is absolutely gorgeous and it completely stands all on its own as it was meant to be. I admit, at first, it took me a little while to warm up to her Russian naming system since it did get a little confusing at times, what with all the different spelling and pronunciations making your tongue tie. However, once we learned more and more about this wonderful world and the characters the author manages to weave through this dark, itty-gritty world of hers, you will soon become so invested in everything the book throws at you and be left wanting more of it. I sure want MORE! When it comes down to it, this book was truly spectacular - the details themselves and the complexity of the hierarchical structure made everything else even more amazing than it already was! So I'm impressed. Really, really impressed.
The storyline was amazing and all that, but it was the characters that had really done me in. In addition to her amazing storytelling skills, the author has this wonderful way of working emotional depths into her characters in order to make your own heart ache along with them. Take for example Alina, the main heroine, whom was one of those characters that made me feel for her in every step of her journey that she takes and she was honestly the shining star of this russian-inspired tale, and all my high praises and love go straight to her without question. She deserves them. Her courage and her strength that she had to muster in order to surive in this world of hers, it really only goes to show what a great heroine Bardugo conjured up . . . because I loved our Alina to bits. Girl crush, anyone?
All of the love and high praises also goes onto Alina's two male leading characters, the sweet-but-overly-protective-best-friend Mal and the mysteriously-handsome-but-brutal-man known as the Darkling. While most readers would automatically assume this was going to be yet another love triangle offered up in a young adult book, but through my eyes . . . it wasn't necessarily your typical love triangle, even if it's a planned one for the future books. I mean, I can't really see one developing or going anywhere if that but boy oh boy I really do hope so. The two male leads were absolutely loved by me and while these potential love interests enter Alina's life at different points in her life, but I can understand why she's battling over her own feelings for them. Mal, an orphan boy Aline has spent most of her life with, was such an honorable young man and one of the sweetest fictional boys ever. I yearned for him to love Alina like she deserved because I just KNEW something was bound to happen between them, but on the other tip of the scale, I was also glad that their relationship grew later in the book. It defined them more in that way.
And then of course there's that nameless man only known as "the Darkling" and my god he is one sexy creature of the darkness. The Darkling was one of the most intriguing characters I've ever come across this year. He was sexy, exciting, dangerous, ruthless, and hella scary with all little things inbetween. I knew I shouldn't trust him like Alina felt at first, but at times I was questioning myself on whether I should trust him. He was SO convincing in a sinner way. There was just this allure about him where you knew he understood Alina in ways Mal never could, but my god . . . I have no idea whether I should be on Mal's team or on the Darkling's team despite him being casted as the 'villain' in the book. Gah! One thing is for sure readers . . . expect many surprising things, especially when it comes to these very too-hot-to-handle boys. They're so perfect.
Overall, Leigh Bardugo's SHADOW AND BONE was such a brilliant debut novel and offered up so much more than I thought the book was willing to give me. And, as much as I'm sadden by this book ending for the time being, but I know this book will hold a special place in the hearts of many high fantasy and historical fiction fans, even those ones whom adore the steampunk genre because this book right here had all three elements which I love and adore to bits! So, go grab it NOW!
Also, a big thanks to the publisher, Indigo, for sending me a review copy of this book which has a different cover and is called The Gathering Dark for the AUS/UK readers. While I already own the hardcover of the US title, but I have to say it's still a real treat to have both of the covers on my bookshelf!