Shadow and bone is a unique & distinctive epic. it's always a positive sign when books are so fast-paced and you're so glued to them that the pages practically turn themselves and before you know it, all the pages you had left to read have disappeared, right in your hands. More than any book I've read recently, Shadow and Bone is an intriguing exciting story that can be read through in a single sitting, with no need for breaks--except for the ones you'll need to take when scenes and revelations are written just to blow you away, and deliver.
Bardugo's scenes are heart-pounding an tense, the pressure ramping up at a perfect pace. she absolutely knows how to write action, romance, and drama.
The thing about fantasies that I seem to have noticed is an overwhelming concentration on a single element that throws everything off balance.
Shadow and Bone, like the world of perfection that it is, seems considerably lacking in that aspect. everything comes together in a level playing field, and every detail shines through brilliantly.
Alina is a believable and passionate protagonist. Her attitudes change significantly through the novel, and yet the story has no problem holding close onto her underlying thoughts and beliefs, taking a turn for a reinvented life at one point and letting the truth of her character and her regrets bubble onto the surface at another.
One can't help but follow Alina's purposes and motivations, latching on to the compelling inner thoughts of a character that's stunningly real in an unreal world. Alina never fails at having depth, and rather than creating a character that wholly reflects a fantasy world, Bardugo built Alina from the ground up, and made the world act in response to her. This makes the story hit really close to home.
Even better, the side characters show no resemblance to lacking, either.
Mal, Alina's close childhood friend, is well-developed and pretty damn lovable if I do say so myself. He's absent for most of the book, but he wins over the pages on which he is present. The reader doesn't get to know him as much as would be ideal, but that is what brings a side character to be a source of tension within a protagonist's main inner conflict. One notable example of this is the fact that Alina remains shaky in her confidence in their friendship, despite the fact that they've known each other for years, and it recurs even in the time Alina spends alone. I have no doubt that Mal will provide a worthy plot point for the upcoming novels in the series.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have the distant, alienating character of the Darkling, who is manipulative and possesses ambiguous origins. he seems to be a symbolic character, who exists as something of a product of the dark parts of his world and of the reality of power. The soldiers of his army are both taken advantage of and possess their own powers, simultaneously, acting as sort of a nobility within Bardugo's fantasy world. the dynamics of both the Darkling and his system are fascinating and strike a perfect degree of bleakness and a hopeful act. Something intangible and hard to describe makes the Darkling an enticing character. It might be the tension between him and Alina, it might be his attempts to be good, or the question of how genuine his expressions really are, but regardless, his character is an excellent addition to the story. (The moral dubiety of the situation adds to it even further.)
And for a world that has an order and adoption of magic, there is an abundance of things that are left unexplained within the rules of magic as well. Even with the debacle of Alina being thrust into this world with no prior knowledge, there are elements of Bardugo's fictional Ravka that remain ambiguous throughout the story. Normally, I'd call this lazy worldbuilding, but in this circumstance, I maintain that it's better this way, with the mystery of how magic works enriching the story.
A practical masterpiece in fantastical entertainment, Shadow and Bone can clutch the hearts and minds of readers and critics alike, delving into the fictional world of Ravka and revealing corruption and a shadow over the land.
I could say that the greatest success in entertainment this book achieves is the phenomenon it centers around: the fold, a rift in the middle of the country, with monsters that are far up on the scale of frightening due to their twisted origins, and intense geopolitical implications.
Shadow and Bone is alight with vivid imagery and consequences that fuel the story and captivates like nothing I've ever read. Shadow and Bone not only earns a rave review but a place on my favorites shelf. I cannot recommend this book, to everyone, enough.