Review of Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) By Leigh Bardugo

Rating 3.5/5

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowlydestroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite – the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

It seems like every YA high fantasy book I’ve read in the past couple of years has been bogged down with romance– save The Shattered Sea trilogy which I can highly recommend – It’s gritty, action packed, violent, exactly what epic fantasy should be.

Shadow and Bone is no different. The plot is too wrapped up in romance and the rest of the novel suffers for it. Bardugo has created an interesting world. It reminded me of something from a Guillermo Del Toro movie. Cold, harsh, populated by a growing darkness and weird creatures… But Bardugo spends too much time developing romance, and a solid plot is sacrificed. Some readers probably won’t mind. But I wanted more of the action that the beginning and ending of the novel delivered.

The opening is good. The middle made me consider skipping pages. Another thing YA books seem to include a lot of is descriptions of clothes and ‘makeovers’. I don’t want to read about that–not when the stakes of the main plot and the villains agenda is world-altering.

After a slow middle, the pace picks up again when the heroine has to go on a quest. The quest plot-line might not be original, but it guarantees pace and action. Bardugo’s cold, harsh world is the kind of fantasy world I like to read about. The kind Abercrombie and George R. R. Martin have in their books.

The characters are decently developed, though they will probably be developed more in the sequels–as will the world-building, which was a little vague and at times confusing.

The writing style is similar to Sarah J. Maas’s, author of Throne of Glass. Atmospheric descriptions, nice balance of description.

Shadow and Bone is a decent balance of original and influenced-by-other-fantasy-books-and-movies. The pace is fast in the beginning, slow in the middle, fast again for the ending. The set up is promising for the sequels, which I hope will focus more on the main plot arc than on romance.

Highly recommended. 

Does anyone else think that romance bogs down the plot of a lot of YA books? Anyone else prefer gritty, cold fantasy worlds?


About Sam Whitehouse

Sam spends most of his time in a different world to other people. If it isn’t one he’s created himself, it’s one he’s reading about. In the rare moments when this isn’t the case, Sam can either be found addicted to a sci-fi or crime show, re-watching Marvel movies, finishing up an assignment for his final year of studying Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, or trying to get the dozens of ideas for stories in his head under some kind of control. Sam has lived in the same small village in Yorkshire, surrounded by countryside on all sides ever since he could remember. His childhood saw him get into plenty of scrapes climbing trees and crossing rivers and generally believing he was Indiana Jones. Sam gives credit to his Grandad for him wanting to be a writer, and his bedtime stories for keeping Sam’s imagination stoked. But credit must also go to Steven Spielberg, J K Rowling and Stephen King, who have provided plenty of inspiration over the years, too. Sam writes what he reads, and that is pretty much anything—save romance. Fantasy, thrillers, or crime: once an idea takes root, he can’t stop until the world, characters, and plot are on paper. A huge Marvel fan, Sam one day hopes to pen a screenplay for one of their movies, or direct one, or do anything at all related to one. Until then, he’ll stick to his own fantasy worlds and wait for Marvel’s phone call.

Posted on 05/25/2015, in book review and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Yes, absolutely. I’m sure there are times it works but no book immediately comes to mind. I remember giving up with the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi because there was so much romance it made me sick (and kinda sorta angry).

    I’ve noticed that makeover trend too. And how it seems the protagonist only becomes desirable when they (and others) realise they have special snowflake powers. 😛

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