Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt and Company on June 5th, 2012
Find It: Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars
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.
Shadow and Bone is….”unlike anything I’ve ever read” (Veronica Roth). There’s truly no better way to describe my reading experience. I loved the characters, I was shocked during the plot twists and I found myself completely immersed Bardugo’s world. I experienced frustration, anger, hope, heartbreak and days later, I’m still shook.
Bardugo manages to give you just enough information to fully capture your attention, without being overwhelming. She’s also very much of the “show, don’t tell” camp. I loved gleaning new bits of Ravka history or Grisha mythology from casual interactions, rather then in big info-dump sessions. I would have enjoyed even more history and more mythology, but the amount provided was sufficient to understand Ravka and its inhabitants.
The plot was probably one of the best-paced plots I’ve encountered in YA. I was so caught up in everything that was happening, so concerned about the characters I had grown to love, that I was completely blind-sided – twice! – by plots twists. I was so enamoured by Shadow and Bone that I wasn’t having to stop and think about whether anything made sense; I wasn’t being constantly pulled out of the fantasy world Bardugo had so elegantly crafted.
And elegantly craft she did. Everything is described in such vivid imagery that it was impossible for me not to have visible reactions. I cringed as Alina entered the Shadow Fold to meet with the Volcra waiting within it’s impenetrably dark clutches. I audibly gasped as the Darkling clapped his hands together to produce the tendrils of darkness that consumed all light. And I’m pretty sure I sighed when Alina broke down all of her walls in order to release her inner brilliance.
I felt passionately about each character in Shadow and Bone. The Darkling, who’s cool demeanour was shattered when he let something amuse him, and who ultimately broke my heart. The embodiment of mysteriousness and allure, he was nothing short of intoxicating. Mal was a refreshing change as a love interest. His easy-going arrogance was quickly replaced with the hardened composure of someone who had made a fatal mistake. I cursed him for so quickly over-looking what he could have had with Alina, and rejoiced when he admitted his foolishness. He won my heart with his fearlessness, both in his desire to keep Alina safe and with his attempt to convince her of his true feelings:
“I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me why we don’t belong together,” he said fiercely.
And Alina. Her character growth was astounding. When you first meet her, she is naive and feeble, convinced of her complete and total mundaneness. As she stumbled through her many and varied mistakes, it was delightful to watch her grace surface and her confidence bloom.
Plain and simple, I loved Shadow and Bone. Yes, the world-building could have been a little more developed, but that’s mostly a personal preference. The pacing, plot and characters were all phenomenal and I will wait in anticipation for the sequel!
Note: I originally read and reviewed Shadow and Bone in February of 2012. In an effort to have all of my reviews on this blog, I will occasionally be reposting an older review. Often this will be in anticipation of continuing with a series or with a different work by the same author.