View from the window seat:
The country of Ravka is divided by the Shadow Fold, a stretch of darkness teeming with monsters. Alina, a seemingly-ordinary orphan, has to cross the Fold for the first time with her regiment. But when they’re attacked by flying monsters, she unwittingly reveals a dormant power that may hold the key to saving her country from the Fold. Soon she’s swept up in a world of wealth as she learns to hone her skill as a Grisha, the magical elite force led by the handsome and powerful Darkling. With her world depending on her power, Alina has to face secrets and trials that will lead her on a path she never imagined.
There are a lot of familiar tropes in Shadow and Bone: girl with undiscovered power suddenly discovered to be a rare flower, girl trains with other special snowflakes, mean pretty girls, orphans. Don’t let these tropes discourage you, though; I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I skimmed the reviews on Goodreads and saw that many people didn’t like Alina because she was sullen and self-absorbed. I didn’t read her in that way at all. Yes, she’s insecure about her looks, but I’m pretty sure everyone is. Her insecurity and plainness actually made me like her a lot more; the protagonist as the most beautiful person ever is getting kind of boring for me. A lot of people seem to dislike when she comes into her power and her appearance changes. This didn’t bother me. I read it as she went from being malnourished-looking to normal-looking, not from plain to gorgeous. My favorite moment is actually when she realizes why her power was dormant and she finally lets go of what was holding her back.
There is romance, but I wouldn’t say it’s the main part of the story. Alina does spend a lot of time pining after Mal, her best friend, but I felt this was realistic. They’ve spent their whole lives together, looking out for each other. Mal is the one constant in Alina’s life; she’s bound to not only miss him, but to have him in her thoughts. I liked how their love was built over years of sharing their lives with each other.
I think this book does suffer from first-book syndrome. There were many places where it could’ve delved into more details, like about the political situation or the Grisha’s unique powers. This book is obviously setting up the series, as it ends with a cliffhanger. I’m hoping to get more details later on in the series.
I raced through Shadow and Bone and can’t wait for more in this series.