Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone book review

Julianne Chen

    Following the release of Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, the young adult (YA) genre exploded in a mess of aesthetic worldbuilding that varies in quality, snarky female protagonists, and love triangles. One of these notable books in the 2010s YA boom would be Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. I have to admit that the only reason that I picked this book up was because I wanted to read the sequel series, Six of Crows and wanted a bit of background with the world and magic system before I jumped into Six of Crows.

    I didn’t expect much out of this book. Having read other books from the 2010s YA boom, I was pretty familiar with the formula. I was ready for the medically built world with the plain-yet-pretty cis-het white able bodied girl who “isn’t like other girls” discover she is the chosen one and get into a love triangle with two cis-het white able bodied men who may or not abuse her. But the world is actually really well built and some common tropes (like the abusive love interest) are actually zig-zagged in this book, rather than being played straight. (I won’t be able to explain the zigzagging of the abusive love interest without spoilers, so sorry.)

    Firstly, the Grisha! I really liked the worldbuilding of this book. Grisha are people with the ability to supposedly cast magic. The ways that Grisha cast magic is actually explained, rather than just assumed that we know. I found it nice that Alina had to study this in school and succeed in communicating her learnings with the audience. The politics of this world are also well written, with powerful figures that are morally gray, good or just flat out corrupt. And it was also quite nice that Ravka, Alina’s home country, was inspired by imperial Russia rather than medieval Europe. 

    Shadow and Bone, while being somewhat cliché and basic, is quite a fun ride. With a fast paced plot, enough interesting characters and a wonderfully built world, Shadow and Bone is a gem in the overflow of cliché YA fantasy that still follows the same formula. But now that I’ve gotten the basic understanding of the world and conflict, I think that I can guess where this trilogy will end and safely skip straight to Six of Crows without reading Siege and Storm or Ruin and Rising.