Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – A Rant & Review

Shadow and Bone has been a highly anticipated series to come to Netflix. So, of course, I wanted to read the book by Leigh Bardugo before I watched the series. I’m a fan of the YA Fantasy genre and I had heard that while the first book in the series isn’t the greatest it still isn’t all that bad. My feelings after reading this book are many and they are not great…This review will have spoilers so here is your first warning!

Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA Fantasy

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 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.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. 

Goodreads | Amazon*


I’m not going to be able to give a review that clearly explains what I hated about this book without giving away spoilers. I feel though that this is not a book that anyone can really talk about without really talking about it so I want to apologize now for the rantiness that will be this review as well as the spoilers that if you haven’t watched the show or read the books you should probably just skip this review all together. No hidden spoiler tags for this one.

As a thirty-eight year old woman I can honestly say that I don’t expect there to be a grand love story in a YA fantasy novel. I can expect a ridiculous and laughable love triangle but honestly this is a story about teenagers for the most part so let’s be real, at our age we should maybe save the sex for adult books.

The Problem with YA Fantasy..

What I do wish was that we had stories that were told better in this genre. I’ve read several and what I hate the most is that every single one that I’ve read with a female protagonist is that they are all so damn annoying! So let me go over what they all have in common.

  • … are in love with their best friend who is a fuckboy that doesn’t even realize they are girls until someone else comes along and threatens their friendship by showing them exactly why the fuckboy is an idiot and doesn’t deserve them thus causing said fb to confess his undying love to which the mc will OF COURSE believe and swoon over.
  • … think they are the least attractive person ever and can’t believe when anyone looks at them or compliments them for being actually beautiful
  • … have powers that they didn’t know before but they are too scared to embrace them and instead fight against them until they are shown in some great big conflict how special and important they are which of course means that they suddenly because SUPER powerful and perfect.
  • … fall for the ‘bad boy’ who they don’t see as that but see as a sad soul who is misunderstood who shows them affection and genuinely seems to care so they trust him but then some idiot will tell him ANYTHING that is negative and suddenly none of the good things that the ‘bad boy’ ever did matter and he is evil and the enemy without question.

What I want to see in YA Fantasy..

I wonder just how many books this actually can describe? Sadly I think it’s a lot. There are variables that change of course and it isn’t all cookie cutter for each story. Over all the stories are about growth and finding yourself and overcoming terrible things. I get the point but I don’t think it’s the right message to be putting out there.

Show me a Female MC that doesn’t put up with the FB bestie’s BS and calls him out on it. Show me an MC that finds out she’s got powers and jumps right in to being better at them not because she has to but because she wants to for herself. Show me an MC that doesn’t trust anyone just because he’s pretty and questions everything. Show me an MC that doesn’t act like she’s the prettiest girl but knows deep down that it doesn’t matter if she is or isn’t because she’s not trying to impress anyone. Show me an MC that is strong but isn’t described as having an attitude or being a bitch to be ‘strong’.

Now the actual review..

Strength comes in so many different forms. That’s the kind of message we should be putting out there and frankly that’s not the one I saw when I read this book. I know..I got a little off topic but I needed to put that down before I explain what pissed me off about this book but also why I’d read the entire series.

So the one thing that I do want to say is that because the book is from Alina’s perspective we also have to remember that all of this is how she perceives things. What I mean by that is, The Darkling, isn’t portrayed as someone who’s bad at all for most of the book because she doesn’t see him that way. So that line of thinking can apply to Mal, to the events after the Winter Fete, to even The Darkling after he kills the stag.

What I didn’t like about the book…
  • Mal. He was annoying, rude, didn’t seem to care at all about Alina until she was ‘taken away’. The fact that she was sick because she didn’t want Mal to be alone and only until after she lets that attachment go is she able to use her powers tells me that their relationship overall was not a healthy one.
  • The Darkling. I’m not someone that things he’s totally the bad guy. I think he’s someone that wants to protect his people and he isn’t willing to trust anyone but himself to get that done. Are his actions overall wrong morally? Yes of course but I don’t think that he wants to do harm to anyone but those he sees as a threat. That doesn’t make him inherently evil in my eyes that just makes him kind of an idiot for not at least trusting in Alina. But also I don’t know what happens in the future books and I think that the way he is written before and after the stag is colored by Alina’s feelings and perspective.
  • Alina. She isn’t the best MC I’ve read for sure, her actions bothered me in a lot of ways that I talked about above but I think what really ticked me off as her wiliness to forgive and kiss Mal along with her wiliness to abandon innocent Grisha who were just following orders to die in the Fold just to save Mal. Girl he’s not worth it.
And what I liked…

Everything else! I loved the world, the magic, the overall story was really fun and interesting. I enjoyed a lot of what I read and got irrationally upset about somethings that I read. I still want to read it all, to know how it all ends for these characters and to meet new ones. I suppose then that she didn’t do all that bad of a job if I’m feeling such strong feelings over a book.

I’m sorry that this was a little more ranty and wasn’t like a review that I usually provide. I would recommend this book but only because I think that the world building deserves to be read. I hope that the story gets better as it goes which I think that it might.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I haven’t finished the show. Frankly, there are many changes from the books that I can’t say I like at all. But I do know that not everyone will share my opinion on this one. I’d love to know what you think about this book? Share in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – A Rant & Review

  1. Lol, I think I liked the books more than you did, possibly because I read them back when they first came out and they were very tropey, but they also followed a lot of the tropes at the time, which didn’t make them amazing but so many books were doing the same thing. I agree that Mal was such an annoying character, and he spent a lot of time whining and complaining because Alina couldn’t always put him first. He was so much better in the show, and I’m glad I like his character on screen more ?

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