BOOK REVIEW: SHADOW AND BONE
SHADOW AND BONE by LEIGH BARDUGO
When I was a child, my grandmother used to make the most decadent, velvet smooth chocolate sauce in the world. I remember pouring it generously over vanilla bean ice cream and watching it turn the snowy mounds into a river of milky goodness. The best part was always dragging my tongue over the spoon, removing every remnant of rich, black chocolate.
The memory of edible nirvana was triggered in the pages of SHADOW AND BONE, a delicious tale of darkness and light. Bardugo can write – really, REALLY write.
You see, I am 100% impatient with any book, film, or even TV show that simply cannot convey the story (no matter how stellar the premise). If an author cannot write, I simply toss the book. This is more of an issue than one would think. NOT an issue for Bardura! DAMN this chick can wield the elusive Sword of Scribes like a robust gladiator.
Perhaps it is my age, but when I first started reading SHADOW AND BONE I was reminded of a very strange muppet-like film, known as THE DARK CRYSTAL . . . dropped into a fantasy version of pre-WWI Russia. Yeah, I know – a wild mix, but it works brilliantly. It also brings the setting to life as it’s own character – a rare gift to the reader.
SHADOW AND BONE follows the journey of former orphan and simple mapmaker, Alina Starkov, from King’s army soldier to legendary Sun Summoner. There are, of course, two boys: The Darkling and her fellow orphan, Mal, who she has always had a crush on, but he seems oblivious to. Typical dude.
There is the Grisha (magic-wielding people) who are seen as the most powerful of soldiers (though still under the King’s rule) who are led by the Darkling (the most powerful of Grisha). There is the Unsea (also known as The Fold) – a dark, swath of dangerous, desolate land that is bathed in constant, black fog. Inside the Unsea are abominations called Volcra – think of the winged, underworld creatures from Fantasia’s NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN. Travelers who attempt to cross the Unsea do so knowing that the Volcra may rip them to pieces (making the crossing highly unappealing . . . and rarely attempted by anyone without a Grisha guard). Supposedly, the Darkling’s ancestor created The Fold, which makes him, well, FRIGGIN’ SCARY to the lay people. He is trying to undo the hell created by his family.
Alina becomes the world’s most valuable asset when it is revealed she is the one who may be able to undo the Unsea with the light she can call to her. She is snapped up and placed under the guard and tutelage of the Darkling and his Grisha. Her life goes from poverty to extreme wealth and, though she has been separated from her beloved friend, she begins to fall for the Darkling. Mal, however, gets dragged back into her life . . .
Because I don’t want to reveal spoilers AND because it is a fairly complicated story, I will not get into further detail. SHADOW AND BONE, however, is a most unusual story with rich details revealing a dark world at war. This is the first book in the Grisha series (Siege and Storm is due out next).
I will absolutely be buying a copy.
As a writer, I do wonder . . . I think this may have been longer, but was condensed by the publisher or editor. I would love to ask Bardugo if a few scenes were trimmed down and, if so, will the full scenes ever be published online? Say, as a “director’s cut” sort of thing? Great story and I would have loved it to delve even deeper into Alina, Mal and the Darkling.
Of course, it IS a series . . .