First appeared on Goodreads, May 27, 2012
Oh, yes. That is much better.
Shadow and Bone is one of those books that you need to read to restore your faith in YA. Whenever you have trouble with incipid heroines, perfect love interests and the Love Triangle of Doon (TM), this is the book that will pick you up.
From the outset, it looks like your average Girl-Discovers-Unique-Abilities-And-Gets-Relocated story: Alina Starkov is an apprentice cartographer, who follows her regiment accross the Shadow Fold - a mysterious wall that seperates the country of Ravka into two. During the crossing, the regiment is attacked by volkra, the monsters populating the fold, and Alina's power as sun summoner is revealed. She is immediately whisked away by the Darkling, the commander of the king's forces, to be trained, in the hope that she will be able to destroy the Shadow Fold and bring Ravka to its former glory.
Or so she thinks.
Because you see, halfway through the book, Bardugo takes the tired old thropes and turns them on their heads. I can't say much for fear of spoiling it, but I didn't see any of it coming, and it was all so glorious. What's more, the characters are all fantastic - Alina and her childhood friend Mal are three-dimensional and well-drawn, and the Darkling is one badass, hot-as-all-hell fucker, and one I would dearly love to read more of.
But the thing that really won me over about this book was the relationship between Alina and Mal. Unlike most couples in fantasy or paranormal YA, those two have more going on for them than just plain chemistry. Their relationship is built on shared experience, strong friendship and mutual respect. Not only does Bardugo create a romance which is natural and solid, she also makes the distinction between love and seduction (I would have said lust, but the word just doesn't fit).
Also, can I get a holla for a YA romantic interest that doesn't care if his lady-love might not be a lilly-white virgin? Hell to the yeah!
Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Note No 2: Image via Goodreads.