To Read or Not to Read: “Shadow and Bone” is a magical end to the summer

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Picture courtesy of leighbardugo.com

“Shadow and Bone” was published in June 2012.

Adithi Ramakrishnan, Staff Writer

Everyone loves a good wizard story.  Harry Potter has had a special place in my heart since I was seven, and it was Harry that opened my eyes to the science fiction/fantasy genre of literature.  Since then, I’ve read many books about casting spells and waving wands – but none of them told a story quite like Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone.”

I didn’t know very much about this book or its plot when I picked it up, but I’m glad I did.  “Shadow and Bone” tells a story about magic, but the book goes so far beyond that defining word.  Alina Starkov is an orphan with only one constant in her life: her best friend, Mal.  When Alina is drafted into the army with Mal, her group enters the Shadow Fold, a stretch of darkness that splits the land in two, inhabited by the carnivorous volcra.  Few are able to cross the Fold and live.  When Alina’s skiff is attacked by the volcra, and Mal is injured, she releases a power within herself she didn’t even know existed.  Alina is a member of the Grisha, a society of powered people who live and train together.  Alina’s powers catch the eye of the mysterious Darkling, leader of the Grisha, who believes that her power can help destroy the Shadow Fold someday.  When the Darkling takes Alina under his wing, whisking her away from Mal and her old life, she learns more than she ever could about what it truly means to be a Grisha.

I loved reading from Alina’s point of view.  She is so courageous and fearless, but not without self-doubt.  When she is revealed to be a Grisha, she doesn’t believe that she could possibly have powers or be more than what she is: an orphan.  Alina also has feelings for Mal that developed over the years they spent together, but he has never reciprocated them.  When Alina is torn away from Mal into the world of the Grisha, she tries to separate herself from him but is conflicted by feelings for her best friend.

The versatility of magic in this book also really interested me.  The Grisha are endowed with  various powers, from summoning fire to healing.  One of the most interesting powers to me was that of Genya, Alina’s servant and eventually confidant.  Genya is a Corporalki, meaning that she can manipulate the human body in some shape or form.  Genya uses her abilities to enhance the Grisha, from removing dark circles to adding color to cheeks and smoothing out skin.  This was a breed of magic that I had never read before and the way it is described in the book made it so alluring and intriguing.

Another aspect of magic in “Shadow and Bone” that really captivated me was the Shadow Fold.  In the book, the Shadow Fold is described as being “dead,” as if all life has been drained from it.  It is a place of complete darkness where the volcra thrive.  The Shadow Fold struck me as a representation of darkness and evil itself – a safe haven for nightmares and creatures of the shadows.  When Alina first enters the Fold, she is terrified of what it might hold.  But as the book progresses and she refines her power, she learns to overcome her fear of the dark.

Leigh Bardugo definitely didn’t disappoint with her debut novel.  I’m planning on putting the sequel to “Shadow and Bone” on hold at the library as soon as possible, and I recommend it to anyone who could use a little bit of magic in the last few weeks of summer.