Do you fancy following a witty yet intellectual teen, through a historical fantasy world brimming with magic? Well, ‘Shadow And Bone’ could be just what you’re looking for.
In a fantasy world, the country of Ravka is divided by the Shadow Fold, a place consumed by pure darkness, inhabited by deadly flesh-eating creatures called Volcra. The Shadow Fold is causing great damage to Ravka, limiting her trade, which is detrimental as she is at war with the neighbouring countries. However, an orphan, Alina Starkov discovers she has a power that can change that.
She is taken in to the Grisha, a people with magical powers, to train to use her power but what will Grisha life be like for Alina? Will she learn to move on from her lifelong best friend and fellow orphan Mal nnd can she really save Ravka and destroy the Shadow Fold?
The setting of Ravka is very enchanting and, while not like any real country, it is topographically like any country from thousands of years back. The strong sense of nature, setting of different villages and towns all with quaint names which sound mythical is a stunning backdrop for all the magic. It totally immerses the reader in a totally different world, one brimming with magic.
I like Alina. She balances being an honest unique character, with a strong sense of humour. It’s enchanting to watch her grow as a person, both by learning to use her power and figuring out who she is as a person and where her loyalties lie. She makes an engaging narrator throughout.
I also really enjoyed the emphasis on friendship in the book. Too often, books focus way too heavily on romance. I know people fall in love, it’s a part of life, but it doesn’t need to be all over every other scene. There is romance in this book, but it is one theme in a blend of many, which is something I think sets it apart from other books, particularly those in the young adult genre.
The other characters are also engaging. Genya Alina’s, Grisha friend, is a well developed, likeable addition to the story. Alina’s Grisha tutors are quite amusing in their disapproval of her inability to be good at being a Grisha.
The Darkling, head of the Grisha, who is quite central to the novel, as it is he who makes the plans for using Alina’s power, is a very mysterious character and certainly very well developed. The royal family of Ravka are notably dislikeable, raising questions about leadership, which I find quite a thought provoking touch.
Mal, Alina’s friend from her childhood, is one of those characters that grows on you throughout the book. I wasn’t that fond of him to start with, however, by the end, he was definitely one of my favourite characters.
The plot is well developed. It deviates from most fantasy books, in that there are limited action scenes. They are there, but they are not frequent, with the main focuses of the book being Alina’s training and some other things she gets up to with regards to trying to use her power to save Ravka. Despite the low focus on action, the book is still engaging throughout, as it is heavily centred on a cast of vibrant, well developed characters.
There were times when I thought the book would run out of conflict, but then it would suddenly take another direction. There were some quite impressive surprises, which I thought were great, as I read so much fiction, there’s nothing I like better than a plot twist that throws all the things you thought you knew in to question.
The narrator, Lauren Fortgang, does the story great credit by a fantastic performance. The narrative voice she maintained throughout fits Alina beautifully. Additionally, her impersonations of all the other characters, brings the story to life even more.
Overall, I was very impressed by the story. I would highly recommend it, especially if you fancy a book with more of a character focus than an action focus or if you like historical fantasy.
(pub: Orion Children’s Books,2014. audio version . Length: 8 hours 55 minutes. 352 page paperback. Normal book price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN-13: 978-1-78062-226-2)
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
check out websites: http://www.hachettechildrens.co.uk/homepage_orionchildrens.pageand www.leighbardugo.com