I’d heard of the author Leigh Bardugo because her latest novel, Six of Crows, has taken off. However, upon perusing her other work, the onion domes on the cover of the Grisha Trilogy immediately caught my eye. I lived in Russia for a year, and I just love anything and everything related to the Russians, especially Russian culture. I just had to read this book!
The story follows Alina, a teenage orphan now serving her time in the army of Ravka. When her lifelong friend and fellow orphan Mal is injured, she manifests an incredible and unique power unseen among the world’s magic users.
At first, it was a little hard for me to swallow. The purist in me was peeved at the liberties taken with the Russian elements incorporated into the story. However, if you look at the map provided with the book, you can see that the story does not take place in Russia, but is more inspired by. Once I accepted that reality, I was fine with that aspect of the book.
I will say however, Bardugo does not spell out information about the world she’s created. Most of it is little by little introduced and inferred. I personally like this style, but I know others prefer things to be more fleshed out. If you aren’t at least familiar with Russian culture, you might feel a bit lost.
The plot is full of common archetypes in YA lit. Many YA lit plays on the need to feel important and special as characters discover they’re more extraordinary than they appear. Shadow and Bones definitely uses this plot device heavily throughout the first half of the book. I personally didn’t find it cliche though because Bardugo’s magic system is pretty unique and weighed down in politics. While the first half of the story is Alina learning to use her powers, gradually the story shifts into the unexpected and you begin to realize the theme of this story is power and what lengths people are willing to go to obtain it. I loved that because I don’t think it’s a theme I’ve been seeing often.
Alina began as a pretty stereotypical character: insecure, sassy, doesn’t think she’s pretty. It begins with some does he love, does he love me not, blah blah blah blah blah. However, she makes an amazing character arc as the story progresses as she begins to accept herself and gain awareness of what is actually going on around her.
In the end, I loved the story! I have no idea where it is going to go in the remaining two books. It left me wanting more, and the sequels can’t come fast enough in the mail.