Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Review written by Amy Pan
Before beginning Shadow and Bone, I wondered what category of readers I would be falling into afterward: the group of gushing adorers or the tribe of fierce opposers. However, I now find myself uselessly pacing somewhere in the middle, twiddling my thumbs and pondering all the things I liked but didn’t love and disliked but didn’t hate.
The backdrop is an early 20th century Russia-inspired fantasy land called Rivka. All of the bustling merchant towns were given vivid details, but the general world-building was at a minimal. If the auxiliary map of Rivka had not been given, it would’ve been even harder to picture this war-ravaged land so desperate for a leader. With that being said, Bardugo’s world was a breath of fresh air, as it reflected numerous ancient cultures. I recognized hints of civilizations from Japan, China, and Russia through aspects which reminded me of geishas and hierarchies.
The characters all seemed to lack detailed descriptions and I had a hard time picturing even the main character–effective for imagination, I suppose, but very difficult for visualization. I enjoyed witnessing Alina’s drastic transformation from a naive merchant girl with nowhere to turn to an independent warrior who supports herself with the limited knowledge and resources she’s given. It was an enticing experience. Alina’s sharp, humble, and outspoken personality was empowering, especially when she finds her inner strength to pick herself up after any breakdown.
The story itself was told fluently and in a way that builds suspense up very effectively, but I am a little weary of breezy and superficial tales like this. Shadow and Bone was entertaining, hilarious, and unique, but in the end, readers can’t help but want something more thoughtful and sophisticated. Because it lacks something profound, it isn’t hard to sense a gaping hole in the midst of this story.
While Shadow and Bone was slightly shallow and frivolous, I certainly enjoyed it. Humorous and enjoyable, I would recommend Shadow and Bone to anyone looking for a satisfying fantasy fast read–but don’t expect much depth from it. 3.5/5!