Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy, book 1)
By Leigh Bardugo
Expected publication June 5, 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
Alina has grown up an orphan in war-torn Ravka, alongside her best friend (and secret crush) Mal. Now that they are older, Mal has proven himself as an extremely skilled tracker, while Alina has resigned herself to mapmaking (though she's not particularly good at it), all the while admiring and resenting the Grisha. But when the two find their lives in peril while attempting to cross the Fold, Alina discovers a hidden talent that will change them both forever.
To be honest, I didn't really want to pick up this book at Midwinter. I had heard nothing about it and the blurb didn't really grab me when I read over it. But, the publisher was really pushing it and I am always pleased to find publishers who tell you what they genuinely think could be a hit from their upcoming titles. So I ended up taking home a copy. It seems like buzz has built since then and it was recently reviewed on one of my favorite blogs (seriously you guys? just go read them) so I actually found myself pretty excited to read it. From the first page, I could tell this was going to be a quick read, and it definitely was - the pages just flew by as I became more and more absorbed in the story. It is not the most wonderful story I've read this year, but I was completely engrossed in the world Bardugo has created. I think this is a very unique setting - Russian-inspired and full of fascinating magic. I wanted to know more about the world and the Grisha and the Fold and the stag - everything was genuinely captivating. Alina is, at times, an annoying heroine - she is incredibly insecure and doubtful and is very conscious of her appearance (specifically how it doesn't measure up to everyone around her). However, I think this is tied very closely to a major plot point, so, at least to me, it all made sense in the end and wasn't just a nuisance. I liked her friendship with Mal and her conflicting feelings surrounding him, as well as the romance that is introduced throughout the story. I did get a bit bored with the familiar cattiness and tough-yet-really-looking-out-for-her teachers when Alina was undergoing her Grisha training. I did find Genya to be a refreshing piece of the training puzzle, though. By far, one of my favorite things about this book was the character of the Darkling - this is how you create a complex villain. I must admit that I was essentially right there with Alina in terms of my thoughts about the Darkling, so I found this character especially intriguing at the end. Overall, I think this is a solidly entertaining book, worth a look from your fantasy fans. I'm definitely looking forward to book 2!
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.