Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Series: The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1
Published by Audible Studios on 2012-11-30
Length: 9hr and 21min
Reviewing Audiobook from Audible
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 her life—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.
Oof. That’s all I can say after finishing the first in The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to write this review because my feelings are so big about it. First, let me say I listened to this one, and subsequently bought a hardback copy. This is one I NEED on my bookshelf. I’ll say that when I finished the book I felt like I had woken up from an intense nap where I don’t know what time it is and there’s a weird taste in my mouth (my Mom calls them “powernaps”). It was to the point I had to read a recovery book after this hangover. Anyway, let’s dive into the plot and characters and then I will *try* to organize my thoughts on it coherently.
The story opens on two orphans in the care of an orphanage, set up in the country manor of Duke Keramsov. Alina and Mal are best friends who are raised together in this country estate by a conservative, haughty headmistress. Once a year the children in Ravka are tested to see if they are Grisha (or “witches”, with powers similar to ATLA involving the elements). Alina knows she is different than Mal, and whatever difference she has she suppresses so she can stay with him just as she promised. Suppressing herself emaciates her, causing her to have little appetite and sleep poorly. This continues into her adolescence, when she and Mal have enlisted in the military together. Alina is a moderately-talented apprentice cartographer while Mal is a much sought-after tracker.
Alina and Mal’s company, accompanied by high-ranking Grisha, is about to be sent to the west side of the country, but they have to pass through the Shadow Fold – a swathe of land completely engulfed in a cloud of total darkness. Lurking in the darkness are creatures from their worst nightmares, The Volka. As they enter the Shadow Fold, they are attacked. When Mal’s life is in danger Alina saves him without knowing how and wakes up back in a camp on the same side of the Shadow Fold they had just left. When the Grisha learn the manner of Mal’s rescue – well, let’s just say Alina’s life will never be the same.
When The Darkling, the most powerful and elite Grisha, with the power to wield darkness as a weapon, realizes what Alina is – what her power is – he takes her under his wing. He immediately whisks her away to the Small Castle, Os Alta, where she is taught combat tactics and how to use her power. She is separated from Mal, with no real word on if his injuries have healed or where he is.
She lives in opulence in the castle, always wondering what has happened to Mal. What she doesn’t expect is the favor she has with The Darkling, or the connection she feels to this sexy, mysterious dracula-like man. But what exactly are his plans for her? Can she undo the darkness plaguing her country? Can she learn to wield her power?
I have tried, while writing the above, to narrow down my opinion of this story. First of all, I love it. Let’s get that out of the way. I love this story. It’s dark and suspenseful; lush and textured; heart-rending and heart-pounding. I can already feel how beautiful Alina’s arc is going to be. In the beginning she is timid and unsure of herself, but I can tell she is going to just blow up and be a badass. I can feel it in my *BONES*…..get it? Cuz the title? Anyway. I just cannot wait to see what happens to these characters. Will she or won’t she be with The Darkling – is he really a villain or is he secretly the good guy? I don’t know. These YA authors got me all mistrustful of my antagonists. So YES, I do love this story. There are some slightly darker themes happening in here – some heavy themes. I just cannot get the scene with the while stag out of my head, it was so beautifully done. You could *feel* the connection there. All told, I am so glad I picked this one up. I’m going to need to know how this one ends *real quick*.
I’m so excited to have finally started one of Leigh Bardugo’s books – and this was a good choice to start with. *Pats self on the back* Good one, Manda.