It’s Fine – a review of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

There’s been a trend so far with me picking up BookTok favourites. I say that but this is only the second one I’ve picked up. BookTok books just aren’t for me.

Once a soldier, now the key to saving her kingdom. Alina reveals a radiant magic hidden within her in a life or death moment. This captures the attention of the crown prince, also renowned for his magic, who whisks Alina away to a life of both luxury and vigorous training. Alina must find her purpose in court, her magic she struggles to unlock and the solution to quelling the dark magic that has split the land in two. But the problem may be bigger than what she’s been told.

The main character was an interesting case. I cannot tell you a thing about her personality because it was either so generic or changed so much. Alina was passive one moment and snappy the next, willing to fight the villain and then surrender the next. You couldn’t tell much about her personality beyond how she saw herself and other people. But she wasn’t annoying. And thank god she wasn’t defined by her career or hobbies which just added small details to her. Her decisions still makes sense, and she’s far from the sassy stereotype most heroes follow in YA fantasy. So while she does the job, Alina doesn’t quite feel compelling for me.

The worldbuilding and cultural inspirations intrigued me. While I usually roll eyes or ignore European inspired worldbuilding found in most fantasies, the Slavic inspirations in Shadow and Bones felt evident and refreshing. Especially the time periods they took on where firearms are used and introduced – early to mid 1800s I think? It works excellently with the theme, with the cold wintery vibes and environments linking to the dark period of history the world has succumbed to. This made the world feel refreshing as a fantasy world.

That being said, the plot felt generic, superficial and predictable. While the world had character above and beyond, the story did not. I’m wondering if this is something that fantasy classics have made us misinterpret about the fantasy genre – that the worldbuilding makes the story. It didn’t here. Even stuff framed as a plot twist or something climactic felt doable or obvious and it just made me disappointed. An ‘Oh, of course!’ filtered in every couple of chapters, y’know? Maybe the way tropes paired up gave me that perspective.

But the writing style was a huge plus. It made many great descriptions and helped visualise that world very well. I wouldn’t feel the way I did about the world and characters and the plot for the most part if it weren’t for the narrative voice. That was the most solid and consistent throughout and made the experience all in all ethereal in spite of a lot of common tropes paired together.

All in all, this is again a book that will be good for somebody else. But that someone isn’t really me. I’m not calling anyone boring for liking this, because this is just fine. And just fine is not something I’m willing to attach myself to.

Shadow and Bone gets a score of 3.5/5. I’m just fine. So is this book.

Yours in writing


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