A fast-paced novel, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is a young adult fantasy novel that is the first book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Creating a whole universe, Bardugo immerses her reader into the Grishaverse, a world where some have powers that allow them to practice the Small Sciences.
Those who possess powers are called Grisha, and they are split further into orders: Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki. The Corporalki can manipulate the human body. Because of their power, Corporalkis are the most feared type of Grisha even though they can both help and harm a person. Mainly known as summoners, the Etherealki can manipulate natural elements. Being able to manipulate wind, air, and fire, these Grisha are crucial in any fight. Lastly are the Materialki, or Fabrikators. These Grisha can manipulate materials like metal, glass, and chemicals.
So, in Shadow and Bone, the majority of the events happen in the war-torn Ravka. Ravka has been plagued with war for years suffering the loss of citizens and patriotism. However, this war with their northern and southern countries is not their biggest problem. Long ago, an ancient Grisha Shadow Summoner ripped a gap in the center of Ravka, thus creating the Shadow Fold.
The Shadow Fold stretches from the northern to southern borders of Ravka, splitting Ravka into west and east Ravka. An ugly scar on the map, the Shadow Fold is pitch-black and filled with lethal monsters called volcra. When the Fold was first created, a prophecy mentioned the only thing that will destroy the Fold is a Sun Summoner. More detrimental than the war, the Shadow Fold prevents the full might of Ravka from coming together to restore power, peace, and patriotism.
With all of the background information covered, the main character can now come into play. Drafted into the military, Alina Starkov is a cartographer at the beginning of the novel. Along with her life-long best friend Malyen “Mal” Oretsev, they both plan to make a crossing through the Shadow Fold. However, when they enter the Fold and a volcra attacks Mal, Alina lets her true light shine, literally. To save her friend, light explodes out of her, burning away the volcra. Stunned at what just happened, the Etherealki bring the skiff back to east Ravka and take Alina to the Darkling.
Hearing of this impossible light, the Darkling drags Alina to his tent to receive an explanation. A descendant of the Shadow Summoner who created the Shadow Fold, the Darkling commands all Grisha. When the Darkling coaxes the light out of Alina once more, Alina, the Darkling, and Mal realize that they have the prophesized Sun Summoner in their midsts. From this event, the rest of the trilogy kicks into gear, and Alina’s adventure never stops.
Even though this fantasy world seems complex, Bardugo’s ability to simplify and condense information allowed me to fly through these books in a couple of days. This trilogy leaned more towards the easier side of reading, but the plot lacked no excitement or surprises. I would most definitely recommend this book series, along with her other Grishaverse books, Six of Crows duology and King of Scars series. These books provided me with some of my favorite characters to date, and I hope people at least try them out! Happy reading!
(Only if you’ve read the series) Which team are you on, the Darkling, Mal, or Nikolai?