Book Reviews

Review: “Shadow & Bone,” Leigh Bardugo

August 2, 2012

I received this book for free from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: “Shadow & Bone,” Leigh BardugoShadow & Boneby Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Published by Indigo on June, 2012
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 442
Source: Hachette Australia

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

It’s hard to put into words just how enthralled by The Gathering Dark I was. Let’s just say that I haven’t been able to read a book of this size in one sitting for over six months, and that was when I was floored by Veronica Rossi’s debut in January. Leigh Bardugo astounds me with her craft for storytelling! I am so very glad I stumbled into the world of the Grisha!

This book was part of my 2012 Debut Author Challenge
I’ve been swarmed with buzz about Shadow & Bone (the US title I was most familiar with before receiving my UK/AU copy from Hachette) on the blogosphere for quite some time, but I had NO IDEA that there were Tsarist Russia elements and themes in Leigh Bardugo’s magnificent YA debut. If I had known, I most probably would have picked up the book much sooner!

The story starts innocently; a boy and a girl are introduced to the reader from a distance. From the first page I simply KNEW that Leigh Bardugo had a knack for writing and painting a vivid world. I prepared myself for a long night of reading. I am so glad that I wasn’t wrong.

It’s been a while since I was swept away so completely by a book like this. It was exactly what I needed; a strong, fantasy-fuelled escape with dystopian elements and a twinge of something extra. That ‘something extra’ came in the form of the Russian elements and Leigh Bardugo’s unique way of mixing it all up!

Alina’s story was so well-rounded and is a great first step into what promises to be an exciting series. We begin with a short glimpse into her life as a child, then we progress to her drab and anonymous life as a cartographer in the military. It’s here, with Alina, Mal and the First Army, that we witness the terrifying void of shadow known as ‘the Unsea’. This experience will shape Alina and the rest of the story – and certainly left me with goosebumps as I tried to forget about the volca (awful shadow-wraith creatures who we learn more about later on).

After Alina’s experience at the Unsea, we’re whisked away into a completely new setting, and that is life at the Little Palace and the world of the Grisha. Leigh Bardugo managed to weave such a colourful and interesting culture here. I was blown away by the imagery of the Grand Palace and Little Palace, and found myself loving Alina’s time there as well as the new host of characters we were able to meet. We also see Alina’s relationship with The Darkling (sah-woon!) progress as she settles into her newfound life.

There are many facets to this story and I found myself really enjoying Alina’s character and her narrative. Our setting changes again – there’s never a dull moment – and in this ‘third quarter’ of the book, I was reminded of Maria V. Snyder’s Touch of Power, which I absolutely adored. We learn more about Ravka and its people, too, which is always a good thing.

There’s also a shocking finale. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, things turn around again! If I had wanted to put the book down at any point during the night, I would have been unable to!

There aren’t many ‘series’ today that really require a second installment, but this isn’t one of them. Leigh Bardugo has earned herself a new fan and reader here, and I can’t wait for the sequel which is sure to be stunning!

Recommended to: If you’re pining for a new read that will keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, give this debut by Leigh Bardugo a try. She manages to nail each and every element she employs within The Gathering Dark, and the intricate relationships between Alina, Mal and The Darkling will leave you thinking long after you close the final pages. Fans of Maria V. Snyder will be pleased.

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.


  • Reply Sasha @ The Bookshelf September 1, 2012 at 2:51 am

    I just read this book too. It’s possibly my favorite debut of the entire year. It was just GAH! Amazing! And the Darkling! I’m glad I’m not the only one who swooned a bit when he showed up. I can’t wait for the sequel!

  • Reply Steph August 3, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Gah, YES. It’s been several weeks since I read Shadow and Bone and I am still reeling from it. It’ll be in my top ten of the year for sure! THE DARKLING!!

  • Reply Erin W August 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Fab review! I absolutely adored this book. It was SO amazing in writing and world building alone. Can’t wait to see what will happen in the sequel considering it’s really beautiful ending.

  • Reply Kristen August 2, 2012 at 8:55 am

    I really enjoyed this one as well and read it straight through like you did. Definitely a novel that I loved and have suggested frequently already. :)

  • Reply Valerie August 2, 2012 at 5:17 am

    I was really surprised by how much I liked Shadow & Bone, too. I had heard good things, but I was taken aback at what a great world Bardugo created. I can’t wait for the next one. I have to say, I like the UK cover better than the US cover.

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