Shadow and Bone is about a war fantasy romance YA novel involving Alina, an orphan who was in the Ravkan’s First Army preparing to fight against the Fold when on the verge of dying with her childhood friend, she literally burst into sunlight and scare the monsters. She were sent to meet with Darkling who is a Grisha (human beings with super powers) and the leader of the Second Army who is also an amplifier to the powers where he recognized her to be the gifted and rare Sun Summoner. She was sent to be trained to be a Grisha and expected to save the Ravka and the world from the Fold.
I’m being lazy describing this book but to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Its half exciting to read and half predictable. Most of the time I was bothered by the entire world-building in this book. There is a lot of italicized gibberish sentences that was troublesome when the book doesn’t supply extensive glossary for its Ravkan language. From the author’s sites, I found that she had the help of the guy from HBO’s Game of Thrones (which I love btw) with the whole linguistic of the book. The sad thing is, I actually read A Clockwork Orange earlier this year and I do find its very unfair to compare this book to that cult book (especially considering Burgess is actually a language genius) but its really unavoidable considering both Ravkan and Nasdat are based/inspired on Russian. Like some reviewer said, the Miss Bardugo doesn’t actually familiarized with the language like Anthony Burgess do with his Teenage-Slang-Futuristic-Russian-English aka Nadsat. I don’t find the naturalness while reading it it and I find the made-upness overwhelmed the book. The whole thing can be unnecessary as it is. Richelle Mean’s Vampire Academy series is actually a Russian-inspired book too but she doesn’t drown her characters in it.
What I dislike was a lot of info dumping while I was reading the book, some info-dumps are okay but it does distract me from the whole storyline progression. In this book, the info-dump was the language which are repetitive so I kept skipping the lengthy descriptions of the meaning of something in Ravkan until I figured out the word when it kept repetitively copy-pasted into the book till the end (which is by the way, how I learn to read in different languages including English). To be honest, it definitely not working for me and distracted me from the storyline which was all I was concentrating on. The characters themselves aren’t really impressive since the story was archetypical and somehow you’d expect basic characters like frightened first person point of view with a childhood love, Mal who treated her like a child and a mysterious Grisha figure, Darkling who made her feel like she’s wanted despite all odds. But for a serial, I don’t expect much from this since it can changed to something else.
As for the ‘magical elements’ with the Grisha itself, all I could observe from the book’s description, some of the Grishas were all alchemist and aren’t really magicians. But depended on how you see it, it doesn’t sound like Harry Potter (which Divergent apparently was ironically compared to) but its familiar since its archetypical POV book which I constantly being reminded again and again.
The saving elements of the book was probably to plot progression from the child Alina being subjected to tests by someone known as Grisha to the teenage Alina who is a cartographer for the army (which apparently, children in army is not a big deal.. teenagers are minors and included into the children subset too) who was eventually revealed to be a Grisha that she had to undergo training in a place called Little Palace where she harness her sun-summoning powers to flood the room with light. This is the moment when I reminiscent her ability to summon sunlight with Edward Cullen and his glittering menace and Bella Swan’s shielding ability. I had some bonding moment with Alina when she compared her powers to other Grisha’s but then her character had to go into a magical transformation from a small frightened frail orphan to a powerful being that could save the world. I had some satisfaction eventually but I guess the storyline is quite redeemable that I will look forward to the next instalment.
I would recommend the book if you like YA fantasy narrated by an archetypical female character set in a war-time era with magical elitist people serving a country against the onslaught of the dark dimension. The book have some of its grey moments in its black and white conflict which can be interesting had it not being swamped by the triangle romance which can be tiring and repetitive. The book is not for people who seek Russian-themed storylines since it definitely fictitious. Although the book has a potential to be a soci0-political commentary book on war, but I’m not seeing it to be a major importance to the entire storyline so for older young adult (20’s and above) the book won’t be a “The Hunger Games” despite the entire authoritarianism noir it portrays.
p/s: Grisha sounded like Geisha and Shu Han is obviously some country-part for China but it was called that during Han Dynasty (which was like 2th century?) that I kept confusing myself wondering if the era it is supposed to set in. But probably around 18th century since rifle existed but they’re using horses so…. I know, I’m confusing myself.