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Girl Gone Grisha

Mandy C. reviews Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel Shadow and Bone and finds herself cursing the powers that be for not blessing her with the Grisha ability to eliminate bad hair days.

Girl Gone Grisha

BOOK REPORT for Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Cover Story: Awaiting the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
BFF Charm: Eventually
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Russianese
Bonus Factor: Magic
Anti-bonus Factor: ADT
Relationship Status: Bonfire buddies

Cover Story: Awaiting the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Antlers and smoke and icy-looking speckles and architecture reminiscent of Red Square—there’s a serious Russia in winter/Nutcracker vibe going on here. And I dig it.

The Deal:

The country of Ravka is one filled with unusual people—many of whom can control the elements in a way that some might see as magical. These individuals are referred to as Grisha, and the head of their order is a man called The Darkling, whose powers surpass all others.

Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev are orphans who grew up in a remote region of the country. Neither showed any sort of Grisha ability when they were young, so when they reached adulthood, they joined the King’s Army, in which Alina became an apprentice mapmaker and Mal a hunter/tracker.

When an unusual incident occurs on a routine army mission, Alina is thrust into the limelight and the attention of The Darkling—which may or may not be a good thing.

BFF Charm: Eventually

Alina starts off as kind of a mousy character (both in looks and personality), and the “woe-is-me”/”but I caaaaan’t” attitude she has at the start of the book can be grating. She’s got spunk, though, and it occasionally comes out in her attitude toward others. By the end of Shadow and Bone, Alina grows into a strong woman who isn’t afraid to take chances for what she knows is right. I really liked her character’s progression, and her badassery by the end of the book definitely makes her BFF material.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

There were definite moments of swoon in Shadow and Bone, and hints of a love triangle, but nothing went so far that it made me blush, nor made me annoyed. The swoonage felt very realistic; I felt like Alina dealt with situations much like I would have. Quite a bit of it was actually surprising, too, which is always a fun turn of events; it’s not often that an author can keep me in the dark for so long about a character’s intentions.

Talky Talk: Russianese

I’m remember reading that Leigh Bardugo got crap for the bits of Eastern European/Russian language and culture that she wove into Shadow and Bone. For me, who is not of Russian or Eastern European descent, I found that her made-up (/altered) words only added to the world-building of the story. Even with stumbling over these words, phrases and places (e.g. Grisha, Corporaliki, Kribirsk), I found myself getting sucked in quite quickly to this new universe Bardugo has created.

Bonus Factor: Magic

We’re not talking first-year Harry Potter spells here. We’re talking healing, working with the elements, stopping hearts, molding metal, and even the occasional bit of semi-permanent makeup.

Anti-bonus Factor: ADT (Another Damn Trilogy)

WHY, publishers?! Although I do want to know more about Alina, Mal and the Darkling, Shadow and Bone didn’t leave me TBCed, it didn’t leave me with the hollow feeling cliffhangers often do. (Apologies—This isn’t so much of a complaint about Shadow and Bone as it is a complaint about the whole “trilogy for trilogy’s sake” bidness.)

Casting Call:

Saoirse Ronan as Alina Starkov

Tiny, can be mousy; but can also be super pretty when she means to be.

Henry Cavill as Malyen Oretsev

Handsome, blue-eyed, strong; a total ladies man wth heart.

Daniel Henney as The Darkling

Alluring, dark hair, a piercing stare; yet is deceptively youthful.

Relationship Status: Bonfire buddies

We had a lovely evening, you (Book) and I. We sat by the fire at the edge of the lake and we told stories about our youths. I might not have understood everything you said—your words were sometimes foreign to my ears—but I got the big picture, and I liked it. I do hope we can meet again soon; I want to hear more.

FTC Full Disclosure: I bought a copy of this book with my own hard-earned dough. I received neither cupcakes nor money for this review (dammit!). Shadow and Bone is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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