My Thoughts On: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Posted February 13, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 31 Comments

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Publish Date: June 5, 2012

(first published May 17, 2012)
358 Pages
Source: Publisher

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his lifeβ€”a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart. (from Goodreads)

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo 

My Thoughts: I probably should have read Shadow and Bone a long time ago. It’s certainly been sitting on my Kindle for a long time, begging me to read it. But for whatever reason, each time I tried to start it – it just didn’t click with me, which is fine. I’m not going to push myself onto a book that I might not love as much just to consider it read and checked off of a list. I mean, it was frustrating for me at the time, but if I would have read it back then, I might not have loved it as much as I do right now.  

This book is really hard for me to talk about without giving certain plot points away. Also it’s hard to come up with something to say that everyone else hasn’t already said. So I’m just gonna talk a bit about how I liked it, okay? Okay. 

The first thing you need to know is this:
While I was reading this book, I could not get enough of it. 
For some reason, I’ve always had a little bit more trouble when I’m trying to read stories containing names and places from Russia or Eastern Europe or places in that general region of the world. My very-Eastern-North-Carolina-oriented mind doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the pronunciation these words while I read, and this actually affects my reading experience because I get very frustrated. This is exactly the reason that I have put this book down twice before. On this third try, though, I was encouraged to “Keep going!” – sometimes a little nudge is all the nudge I need. This time, when I kept reading, I fell in love. 

Shadow and Bone is a fantasy story that contains magic, which HANDS DOWN is a winner any day in my book. But there is also this really great element of mystery and some romance thrown into the mix. Not only did I get to learn about the (fantasy) land of Ravka and the mysterious darkness of the dreaded Shadow Fold, but I was able to see how much of a role magic played in the day-to-day lives of the people in the area, and this fascinated me. Gosh, just the idea of the Shadow Fold alone fascinated me! I wanted needed had to know more about it. On the day that I was nearing completion of the book, I will admit to the world that dinner at my house was served…um, very late. I just couldn’t put the book down. 

The second thing you need to know is this:
I love what Leigh Bardugo did with Alina and Mal.   

Alina Starkov and Mal Oretsev grew up in an orphanage together, the very best of friends. After leaving the orphanage, they remained together as they served in the King’s Army. From that point forward, I began to feel a little bit unsure about what was going to happen with the two. Their relationship became very twist-y and turn-y, but it did keep me yearning for more, which is something that I love in a slowly developing relationship. My interest in the two of them together never began to waver – it never flickered or sputtered out. I held out hope for these two throughout the entire book. 

Alina made it very obvious to readers that she had deep feelings for Mal – she thought about him constantly, she liked to know where he was in relation to her location as much as possible, and she considered him throughout her day and with her actions. It was admittedly tough to read how she suffered when Mal would entertain beautiful women – she craved his affections so much! Mal was clear that he cared deeply for Alina as well, but it seemed obvious that Alina’s devotion to Mal was much different than his to her. 

At one part of the story, something kind of HUGE happens and Mal sort of disappears from the pages for awhile. While Alina and Mal are split up (not by choice), Alina spends every day thinking of him, writing him letters, worrying over his safety. When she does not hear back from Mal, she fears that either 1) he has been injured or killed or 2) he has chosen to move on with his life, a life that does not include her. Myself heartbroken over Alina’s feelings, I feel like I suffered alongside her for a lost love. BUT then Mal made a sudden reappearance into the story, and my heart leapt and sang and I’m pretty sure I had stars in my eyes because YAY EVERYBODY MAL IS BACK AND HE IS OKAY!! While their initial reunion wasn’t what either of them hoped it would be, at least they knew they were both okay and things could potentially progress from there if they wanted that to happen. 

And progress they did. I enjoyed this so much. 

The third thing you need to know is this:

What is the deal with The Darkling?  
I’ve heard the term “The Darkling” mentioned time and again since this book was published but really could never jump into any conversation about him because I knew nothing about him. OH BUT YOU BETTER BELIEVE that when he entered the story – from the first moment, I was intrigued. What. A. Character. Wow. 

The Darkling rides up into the story on a horse (no, seriously, a horse), all powerful and handsome and wearing all of these fine-looking clothes. He starts barking orders around and people just OBEY him like they have no choice. Suddenly he’s whisking Alina off for reasons**, which means she has to leave Mal and the army and go live far away with him in his palace. WHAT!? I know – I wasn’t sure how I felt about it either. (Remember I’m a huge fan of Alina and Mal together, and my plan for them included a spectacular BFF-to-romance.) 

**Something very interesting happened with Alina that also involved a ton of people, some crazy creatures, and the Shadow Fold. It completely weirded everybody out and it meant that Alina was kind of special. So off she goes to the house of The Darkling. 

So anyway, how does The Darkling fit in? Well, he’s extremely powerful – second in power to the King (am I right about that?). He can do magic, all kinds of magic, and very well. And he holds the answers to some crazy new questions that Alina has about herself. When Alina is forced to leave the army and come home with The Darkling to begin Grisha training, the story takes a wild turn and everything you think you’ve established so far is thrown far, far out the window. 

Alina is whisked away to The Darkling’s impressive mansion to live with his impressive staff and wear his impressive clothes. See, she learns that she is a Sun Summoner, and this magical skill is very rare and very important. The Darkling tells her that together, they can change the world – for the better. Alina works hard to sharpen her skill, to summon her magic, to build her endurance for fighting, should the occasion call for it. She is proud of herself and her improvement and, despite missing Mal desperately, she eventually begins to feel at home in The Darkling’s household…

Oh, you guys, I will love fantasy stories forever and ever and ever. 


Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo kind of rocked my reading world a few days ago. I read fantastic stories all the time, but it had been a while since I had gotten so intensely caught up in a story that I felt like I was inside of it. I kept thinking that if I drew attention to myself, the bad guys were going to come catch me. I kept thinking that I could just take a little leap into the training fields and join Alina and the other Grisha as they strengthened their magic, and maybe they’d teach me too. I felt like I could see Ravka and the beauty of the land, but also the absolute starkness of the barren Shadow Fold. I might not have been Grisha myself, but when I was reading, I was there. 

Shadow and Bone is the type of story that feels a bit dark and perhaps a little sinister, but it is also richly layered with details that enhance these dark qualities and make them oh-so-inviting. The world-building is thankfully there, enough so that I could watch all of these scenes play out in my head. I was impressed with the large scope of this fantasy world as there were scenes inside of castles, in forests, on mountains, and in the mysterious and spooky Shadow Fold. All of the characters – at least the main players – were interesting and engaging and I constantly wanted to know more about them. There were some wonderful secondary characters as well. (I loved finding out that I was completely wrong about a couple of them – I don’t always like misjudging characters, but in this story IT WORKED and was so much fun. I can’t wait to see what they’re up to in the next book.)


The pacing of the story was perfect, as it picked up and slowed down when necessary, but was careful to keep readers engaged throughout. There was never a dull moment. AND OH there were secrets and twists mixed in all over the place, and I kept gasping because I NEVER WOULD’VE SEEN THAT COMING! And honestly that one part – that one part that is a big reveal about that one character? – good gracious! Color me flabbergasted because I didn’t see that one coming! It was brilliant and placed into the story at the exactly the perfect place, after I had established some feelings of trust and also perhaps some feelings of loyalty. Then BAM! I’m wrong! I loved it. 

Well played, Leigh Bardugo. You totally win the award. 

As far as romance goes, I have to admit that during the story I wasn’t sure exactly where the romance was going: certainly there is a relationship of some sort between Alina and Mal because of their lifelong history together, but how does The Darkling fit into all of this – IF he even does? Alina and Mal spent the entire length of the book dancing around their feelings for one another, which is sometimes the most perfect and torturous definition of a slow burn ever. As I was reading, I was wondering if there would be a triangle developing before the book ended, but I have to admit that I am satisfied with the way the Shadow and Bone ended in terms of the character romance. Where it goes from here, I have no idea and I don’t even want to begin to speculate…I’m just thrilled that we can find out pretty soon in the next book, Siege and Storm

There really isn’t anything profound or unknown that I can say about Shadow and Bone that hasn’t already been said. It was a book that generated a lot of buzz and hype pre-publication and around its release date, and in this case I am glad to say that it was all founded and warranted. Shadow and Bone was fantastic and satisfied that craving that I had for the perfect fantasy story at the right time. I love what Leigh Bardugo did when she threw readers those crazy twists and turns because that can be so much fun when it is done well, and MY OH MY it was done so well here. I am eager to see what will happen next – I have to admit that I’m content with how the story ended and I would be fine if it were a standalone. However, it is not, so that means I need to prepare for WHO KNOWS WHAT in the days and months to come as the rest of Bardugo’s brilliant story unfolds. 

I recommend Shadow and Bone for fans of fantasy, magic, adventure, and mysterious characters that may be good or evil. Readers that love good vs. evil stories in general may also enjoy this. 


Shadow and Bone will appeal to fans of:

YA Fantasy with Magic
Romance: Slow burn. No triangle.
Great Characterization
Great Setting

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
is currently available for purchase.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review. Thank you Henry Holt and Co. and NetGalley! 

Have you read SHADOW AND BONE yet?

Tell me your own thoughts! 

If you haven’t read it, is it on your to-read list?


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


31 responses to “My Thoughts On: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  1. Fantastic review, Asheley! Wow. You hit every point of the book in such thorough detail. You captured my exact feelings I had when reading this book. I was the same with the whole names thing. I almost gave up reading it because I couldn't pronounce anything and was frustrated with that. I'm so glad I didn't stop though, because there were so many great things about this book. Those twists and turns? OH MY GOSH. Seriously. Normally I'm pretty good at predicting what's going to happen, but there were quite a few things I did not see coming in this story. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • I get frustrated with myself often if I don't do pronunciation well with names or places in books, particularly fantasy. I could *tell* that I would probably like this one, but I wasn't clicking with the words. Thank goodness on the third try it finally did click and I had a hard time putting it down. Love all of the twists and turns because WOW I was totally not expecting them! At all. I enjoyed it a ton and wonder what on earth is going to come up in the next book. πŸ™‚

    • This one was totally unexpected for me, Ash! I mean I felt like I'd like it but I had no idea how much. The plot was SO TWISTY in places and I loved it. I'm so glad I stuck with it and gave it another go. Fantastic fantasy book, right here.

  2. Oh my gosh LOVE this book!! And your review is amazing! I died at that map, too! Mal and Alina's relationship is the perfect example of one of those slow burns. They are just too adorable. Can't wait to see what happens next πŸ™‚

    • Totally agree. I LOVE MAL and I want good things for him from here on out – but I get nervous when a couple settles down early – I wonder what's coming up next. Thrilled that I finally read this one and also thrilled that the wait won't be too long for the next book. πŸ™‚

  3. I got this book for my sister (who's named Alina and loves Russian mythology) for Christmas, and she, being a reluctant reader, couldn't put it down! I'm just waiting until she let's it out of her sight before I snatch it. Great review!

  4. WOW. Epic review, Ash! You have made me so excited to read Siege and Storm and I was in desperate need of a little memory jogging, THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    This book truly is amazing. The plotting and the language, all of it, is just so masterfully done! I didn't get bogged down by the Russian inspired words (I actually loved them) but I definitely get what you are saying. I'm actually struggling with an Asian inspired book for the same reasons. I need that nudge you spoke of…

    I love that the very beginning is Alina and Mal when they are young and at the orphanage. It was so cool to read that rather than just hear about it years later.

    And I do love Alina and Mal. And I am intrigued by the Darkling. Holy crap, Ash. I think I may be a Switzerland here because both guys are awesome in their own ways!

    And that MAP. Gosh it is so GORGEOUS.

    I can't want to read the next book, and for you to read the next book, so we can chat all about it!!;)

    • The same thing happened to me with Stormdancer – which I'm STILL trying to read for review and doggone it, I intend to. The difference is that in Stormdancer, the glossary is at the back of the book and I have an egalley so flipping is excruciating. In Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo made it really clear when she was using a Russian word and what its meaning was – at least for the most part, I think.

      I'm totally not Switzerland on this one. Not yet anyway. Things could change, but…I'll need to take this behind the wall of the blog to explain why! πŸ™‚ BUT…I do love that Darkling – I love a great, intriguing, interesting villain and this one just kept me on my toes throughout the entire story.

      Mal had my heart from the beginning, though. <3

      I almost want to say that the map in Shadow and Bone looks exactly like the map in Siege and Storm. I need to compare. But yes, absolutely breathtaking. I love a good map that I can refer to, because I DO MORE THAN ANYONE I KNOW a bazillion times while I'm reading.

  5. I think this is the most thorough, well executed review on this book that I've seen so far. I LOVED Shadow and Bone. It was one of my most favorite reads in 2012. I can't wait for the sequel. I agree with you, The Darkling was a spell bounding character. Unlike you, I was hooked on this story from the get go. I'm glad you finally were able to get into the book. Even if it did take a while, the end result was a fabulous review.

    • Wow,thank you! I can't wait to read Siege and Storm soon. πŸ™‚

      The Darkling may end up being one of my favorite characters in any book – I'm SO intrigued by him! I'm so glad that I didn't give up on this one because the third time was definitely the charm! So well written and executed!

  6. YES! πŸ˜€ I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Asheley! I was blown away by the plot twists and so impressed by the creativity of this world in general. Plus, THE DARKLING! I love Mal to pieces, but the Darkling just has so much allure! I cannot wait to see what happens in the sequel now. So. Excited. πŸ™‚

    • Agreed! I am a Mal fan, and I almost feel guilty for finding so much to like about The Darkling! I am always immensely impressed with an author that can weave in genuinely excellent plot twists and I was just wow'd by everything Leigh Bardugo did with this one. Loved it so much. πŸ™‚

  7. Ems

    I LOVED this book. I wish I'd read it sooner, but hey…less time to wait between books, right?! Also, MAP!!!

    Great review. πŸ™‚

  8. For some reason, on first read this book didn't do much for me…it wasn't until later as I thought it over that I realized how much I liked it especially the romantic relationships. My fave part is Mal's declaration to Alina as I term it after they've been reunited.

    • The twists are some of the best I've read, I think, in any story ever. Sometimes when I read I can get an idea of things to come but in this story, I just didn't see these things coming and it was such a breath of fresh air to be completely surprised! I loved it. I can't wait for you to read it and I hope you love it as much as I did!

  9. Yay I am always glad to find out that more and more people are reading and enjoying this book! I quite enjoyed this book myself, for all the reasons you mentioned and then some. How can you not root for Mal and Alina? The final quarter of the book just solidified how perfect they are together. I do agree, however, that the Darkling is such a wonderfully crafted character. I would love to get his perspective on things. And I hope he'll be back in the second book! And I can't wait to read Siege and Storm in general. πŸ™‚

    • YES. I agree on how wonderfully crafted The Darkling is! He makes me so mad sometimes and yet I kind of smirk at how crafty and sneaky he is! What a great point you make – it WOULD be really interesting to get his perspective on things! I'd love it if LBardugo would write something like that. πŸ™‚

    • At first, I wasn't really sure if there would be a triangle or not – I was kind of thinking probably so…but by the end, I felt pretty sure that the book didn't have a triangle at that point. Now, as for the rest of the series, who can say?? No telling where she's going to take things. But I was certain where Alina's heart and mind was at the end of the book, so that's why I said no triangle then. By the end of Siege and Storm, my list may differ a little! πŸ™‚

  10. I really liked this one! It feels like forever since I read it, though. I should probably read it before Storm and Siege. I HATED that cliffhanger ending! Dun dun dun… I love the world that Leigh Bardugo has created. This is the first book I can recall reading that used Russian elements combined with fantasy. I can now say I'm a fan, so if you have recommendations for similar books, I'd love to hear them! πŸ˜‰ I'm glad you liked this so much, Asheley!

    • I just finished Storm and Siege yesterday. I'm glad that I read Shadow and Bone just before I read the second book because there is so much in both books. As far as Russian and fantasy, the only other Russian book that I've read is Anna Karenina, which I am currently reading (it's taking forever) but it isn't fantasy – but it is really good. I have always been so hesitant because of the verbage, but I think after this series I will be less hesitant in the future. I have read where some people have enjoyed The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges, part of the Katerina series, but I haven't read that one. But Siege and Storm was really good. I'm *planning on* posting an early review in the next few days. πŸ™‚

    • I will definitely check out your review! I used to have a copy of Anna Karenina… (that I never read!) but I think someone borrowed it and never returned it. I really need to start reading a classic even if I only read 10 or 20 pages a day. There are so many classics I want to read, but they always get pushed aside in lieu of newer, shinier books. I need to check out The Gathering Storm; I wanted to read it when it first came out and then it just never happened.

  11. I just recently read Shadow & Bone, and I really liked it! While I didn't fall head over heels in love with it, I'm pretty intrigued by the story and curious to find out what happens next to Alina, Mal and the Darkling.

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