Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review: Shadow and Bone -- Leigh Bardugo

Lori can't remember where she originally got the recommendation but she read Shadow and Bone
 and then returned it to the library and then checked it out again because she thought I would really enjoy it.  And I did.

Shadow tells the story of a world of a simpler time, where travel is by foot.  Maybe by horse if you're rich or even a stagecoach if you're royalty.  In this world, there is a group of humans called "The Grisha," with superhuman abilities, such as the ability to call forth wind or fire.  In the kingdom at the heart of the story, they work with the monarchy to fight against its enemies (the kingdom has been at war with its neighbors for over a century), but a wasteland created by an ancient grisha cuts the land in two, separating most of the country from the sea, slowly strangling it.  The wasteland is pitch black and filled with winged creatures that prey on anyone who enters it.  While regular forays are made back and forth across the wasteland for the purposes of trade, it is a costly endeavor that often comes at a great price in loss of life by the military, if the trips are even successful.  And they're not successful enough to keep the kingdom from slowly choking.

Shadow is what you might expect from a YA fantasy novel - action, adventure, pretty tame romantic entanglements, a little commentary on the haves and have nots.  What it doesn't have are convenient deus ex machinas or convenient plot holes, no Shadow is a solid work that never insults the reader.  For instance, after a brief monologue, you're dropped right in.  There's no long setup or exposition, just enough to get you up-to-speed.  One thing I liked is that there are words that are or at least feel Russian.  They are italicized in the book, making it easier to just say "Ok, that's not a common English word" and not have to worry as much about what it means, there's context around it so that you know what it is even if you don't know exactly.

Shadow tells the story of a young girl who enters the wasteland as a military cartographer and the chain of events that unfold after her convoy is attacked.  It's hard to say much more about the story without giving away plot points, suffice it to say that it has a lot of the standard themes of common in a lot of the YA I'm reading these days... a strong female protagonist comes of age learning that there's more to her than she or anyone else suspected, a richly described world with its own rules including a class system, characters with guarded secrets and motives that aren't entirely clear.  Not for bad writing, but intentionally to keep things interesting and to keep you guessing.

I really enjoyed this book.  For days afterwards, I would think "something's missing" and realize I was so engrossed in that world while I was reading it that when it was over, there was a bit of a loss for me.  Thought this was a great read and look forward to the next in the series.
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