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Book Review: Shadow and Bone

Looking into a Popular High School Novel

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, is the first book in a saga that has taken a solid chunk of the freshman class by storm. The novel is about Alina Starkov, a girl who discovers she has the unique power to save her world. The country of Ravka is split apart by a huge, dark emptiness called the Shadow Fold. Not many enter, and fewer return. Only a Sun Summoner, someone with a power not seen in centuries, can destroy the fold once and for all. Got all that?

After Shadow and Bone was suggested to me by almost every organic life form I know, I figured I had to give it a read, and I’m very glad I gave it a try. Bardugo, a Jewish author born in Jerusalem, has crafted a wonderful world full of mystery, injustice, romance, and the occasional magical creature. She uses many common tropes and twists them all into a one large societal struggle between a manipulative authoritative figure, a kingdom, and a single unique orphan. 

One complaint some may have with the novel is that its language is unnecessarily confusing. Shadow and Bone uses a lot of terminology and many expressions in the language of its world, such as “Otkazat’sya,” meaning orphan. Some might find the words hard to understand before they are fully invested in the universe of Alina Starkov. Student Ayelet Hearshen has this to say about the issue: “[Barudgo] uses the language without explaining a bit too much.” Ayelet also had mixed feelings about the complexity of the narrative overall, saying, “It’s very involved and I like the dynamics that it shows, but it can be a bit complicated.” Obviously there will be mixed opinions, but this is a complaint many seem to have with the book. 

Why don’t we take a look at what my fellow freshmen have to say? Gavi Bendicoff states rather intellectually: “It’s a good book, I like it.” I think this quote really provides evidence to the extensive story building and really highlights the strengths of Bardugo’s literary masterpiece. Gavi takes care to point out all of the complexities and nuances of the story. Luckily for you, the reader, he keeps his review spoiler-free. He alludes to the series in a way only somebody who has really studied and examined the novel, reading between the lines in every paragraph, can. [Editor’s note: The author and Gavi are good friends, and the author’s commentary here is intended in good fun.] On a more serious note, Gavi talks about his taste for the politics of the book, stating: “I think [Bardugo] is a good writer and has constructed [the world] nicely in terms of politics and the systems themselves.” I personally agree with Gavi, and I think that Bardugo has a really good way of introducing the different social classes and kingdoms of her universe. 

Overall, I’m very glad I read Shadow and Bone. The mystery left me on the edge of my seat (figuratively, as I was reading it mostly in the comfort of my bed), the king was an interesting and hateable antagonist, and the magical creatures were kinda cool I guess. Still, the ending left many unanswered questions. “What? It’s a trilogy? No way!” I hear you asking yourself. Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising are both pretty good as well. But you’ll have to wait until next time for my reviews of those. Goodbye for now, or as they say in Ravka, “zyeshostash!”

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