Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co on 6/5/12
Genres: YA High Fantasy
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The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying 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?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.
IN AWE, people.
I was originally interested because of the fantasy element. I discovered a Young Adult book club here in Atlanta and their July pick is Shadow and Bone, so I had to buy it and read it quickly. I cannot express how happy I am that it fell into my lap sooner rather than later. Loads of excitement, peeps!
I love me a good villain. The kind that you want to simultaneously hug and stab repeatedly. The kind that can manipulate you into a pile of confused goo but leave your blood boiling like lava. The author delivers a villain such as this in Shadow and Bone, known as the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha alive. He is at the center of the twisted, dangerous journey our heroine, Alina Starkov, must endure. He was fascinating to experience.
Alina is an orphan employed in the map-making ranks of the army, alongside her lifelong orphan friend, Mal, who is the best tracker in the army. As the story begins, it is apparent that Alina is smitten with Mal and has been for a years. Mal is quite the lady-killer and enjoys his status, but adores Alina and is protective of her well-being. When Alina’s life drastically changes with the blink of a blinding light, she is quickly swept away to the palace, leaving Mal far behind. She struggles deeply with their separation, as well as with fitting in amongst the elite people of her world. She never quite feels welcome and normal. I welcomed her insecurities because it made her likable and relatable. Mal resurfaces and you are immediately reminded of why Alina loves the guy, though their reunion is anything but perfect and peaceful.
Genya, a fellow Grisha and a character you are never sure to trust or not, is the only person Alina grows fond of in the palace, and I adored her personality. She’s a sassy redhead.
“You’re very welcome,” she said, giving my hair a hard tug. “You should be used to being gawked at by now.”
“And yet I’m not.”
“Well, if it gets too bad, give me a signal, and I’ll get up on the banquet table, toss my skirt over my head, and do a little dance. That way no one will be looking at you.”
I will do my best not to flail about in serious world-building delight, but I am in awe and in love with the world-building in Shadow and Bone! The magical atmosphere of this book is heavy, as the Grisha are the magical elite force of the Second Army and Masters of the Small Science. There are 3 categories: Corporalki (The Order of the Living and The Dead), Ethrealki (The Order of Summoners) and Materialki (The order of Fabrikators). These people have innate magic that is tested during childhood. If they are discovered as Grisha, they are sent away to the palace to be trained and master their skill.
At some point in history, a very powerful Grisha created the Shadow Fold, or the Unsea. It is a vast expanse of sandy terrain devoid of any light. Pitch. Frakkin. Black. Not only is it terrifying, but creatures out of your worst nightmare are ready to rain down on your ass. According to the map in the book, it covers the western part of the continent, and stands in between the people and the True Sea, which makes it very difficult for trading and the like.
An interesting part of this society, for me, was how segregated it appeared. The Grisha look down upon their associates in other categories, whispering and engaging in forms of snobbery and discrimination. Alina never quite felt at home due to the constant backstabbing and gossiping, often wondering who to trust, which only added to the isolation and loneliness she felt. Another interesting part of this society was the outcasts, or otkazat’sya. It reminded me very much of the Indian caste system, though less harsh – on the surface, anyway.
The political minutia is subtle in this book, but the Darkling has serious plans to take politics to the next level for this society. Of course, Alina lay at the very core of his plan. I hope we learn more about Grisha Theory and the Small Science in Siege and Storm!
This book has it all: stellar world-building, intriguing characters, an epic plot line and a romance so subtle that the realization bowls you over. This book is my favorite read of the year thus far. I am thoroughly in love with the characters, the world and the plot. Triple WIN!
“You are becoming dangerous, and you will become more dangerous still.”
“Me?” I whispered. “To whom?”
“There is something more powerful than any army. Something strong enough to topple kings, and even Darklings. Do you know what that thing is?”
I shook my head, inching away from him.
“Faith,” he breathed, his black eyes wild. “Faith.”
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