Heroes can be boring. Someone who always does the right thing at the right time is not realistic. Everyone has a bit of a villain in them and when an author can create a character that you want to know more about, that you HAVE to know more about, even when they’re seemingly doing the “wrong” thing? Someone who challenges the main character and makes the reader think? That is the type of author who will create a book you can’t put down. Leigh Bardugo is that author and Shadow and Bone is that book.
Bardugo understands magic. Shadow and Bone is the first novel in the Grisha Trilogy. Its heroine, Alina Starkov, has never been good at anything. An orphan (what is it with those orphans?), she and her best friend were trained to be part of the army. Ravka, a once-great nation, has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. When Alina’s best friend is attacked during a crossing of the Shadow Fold she reveals a dormant power inside herself that might be able to save her kingdom… or destroy it.
Shadow and Bone is filled with sensational, wonderful magic. (Magic that would make McGonagall shutter and a Death Eater salivate). The Grisha are a powerful, magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Each member of the Grisha has access to different niche powers. Trained in the art of fighting, the Grisha serve the Darkling, who is their leader and commands an arsenal of impressive, and deadly, powers himself.
Once Alina’s power reveals itself she must train with the the Grisha to figure out how to master and wield her own magic. However, in accessing her power, Alina being consumed by it as well. The thing about magic is that people underestimate it. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Not only personal responsibility, but deciding what level of control you will allow other’s over your personal power.
There is a thin line between good and evil. One person’s hero is another’s villain and everyone is the hero in their own story. The mistake of so many authors is that they take that thin line and try to make it thicker and thicker. The “hero” gets the narrative, the back-story, and the focus while all you know of the “villain,” well, is that they’re “bad.” You’re forced to accept this fact without being given the benefit of what motivates them, their back story, and their reasons behind what they do. A villain that can make you care? Whose actions can make you feel and hate them, rather than the character or author telling you to do so? THAT is a true villain.
Bardugo’s Darkling is a powerful character, both in the magic that he wields and the spells he casts over the reader. Both Alina and the reader must work to determine their true feelings about who he is and what he does. The strength of Shadow and Bone is in the world that Bardugo has created. Fascinating, unique and magical it is a place you at once want to visit… and also fear. A difficult mix to create and a fantastic success for Bardugo’s first novel which leaves you begging for the second to release.
Shadow and Bone is in stores now. Accio a copy immediately.
Ps. Those who order the book from http://leighbardugo.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/pre-order-news-map-swagger/ will have a chance to get extras with their copy.