Saturday, June 16, 2012
Holy Fantasy, Batman!
Did you ever read a book, see the launch of a new gadget, or watch a new movie and think to yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?! It's Brilliant!" That is how I felt after reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. It was such a phenomenal fantasy that I am going to take a virtual bow to Bardugo and her brilliance and wonder (not so) silently why I can't write like this!
Alina Starkov is a mapmaker's apprentice, and not a very good one. Before that she was an orphan. The only person who ever mattered to her was her fellow orphan and lifelong friend, Mal, but in the harsh world where the supernatural Shadow Fold has bisected the country of Ravka, nothing is safe. The Shadow Fold is a huge swath of land that has been plunged into darkness by a powerful Grisha. Since then, the Fold is almost impassable and hunted by the terrifying Volcra beasts. The military escorts people across the Fold, but they are no safer than anyone else in the No Man's Land of the Fold. Mal is in the military, but the King has two armies. The first army is made up of your standard soldiers, people willing to die for their country or at least to get a few warm meals before they die. The second army is a class of people unto themselves called Grisha. The Grisha are magical folk who all have gifts that support the King's campaign. They are broken up into three types of Grisha, but one stands along: The Darkling.
The Darkling is the most powerful Grisha in Ravka. When Alina and Mal get to the Fold for their first crossing, the Darkling is there. As they cross, the Grisha move the land boat across the sand and try to protect the skiff, but more volcra than ever appear and attack the group. When Alina and Mal are attacked, something unheard of happens: Alina begins to radiate sunlight. The sunlight repels the volcra, saving the crew, but it also means Alina is a Grisha. When the Darkling hears about her feat, he whisks her off to the castle to be trained. With her power to summon the sun, Alina and the Darkling could rid Ravka of the Shadow Fold together. Unfortunately, there are people out there who don't want to destroy the Shadow Fold and even more who want to destroy Alina. She knows the responsibility her power brings, but that doesn't mean she isn't still just an orphan girl, in love with a boy who may never speak to her again. But will Mal come back to Alina?
Oh holy fantasy, Batman! Shadow and Bone is a fantasy land that will make you want to finish the final page and start all over again immediately. Bardugo created a world that is both terrifying and magical. The characters are complex and deep to the point that you aren't always sure their intentions or motives, but you know you want to learn more about them. And the bad guys? Oh Boy! From the Volcra to the bad Grisha to the incompetent king, this is a story with layers and layers of evil that will make your head spin. But Alina is a great heroine. Caught up in the whirlwind f the Grisha world, she misses the simplicity of her former self but knows she can never go back again. She knows she has a responsibility to use her powers for good, but she is skeptical of those who wish to control her and enslave her. Alina faces insurmountable challenges, but deep within a poor orphan body is a strong woman willing to sacrifice everything for what is right.
And this is only the beginning. The Grisha Trilogy has more to come and after Shadow and Bone you will be more than just anxious for Bardugo to get the next book out there. This is your next big trilogy to watch out for, everyone! It's out there and it is going to be unstoppable! Keep this book on your shelves for all manner of students because it is an accessible fantasy with great characters and an amazing world that will appeal to all kinds of people, young adult to adults. And don't forget to keep a copy for yourselves because this is one you are going to want to reread!