Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
More like 3.5/5 Stars, but I did really enjoy it despite its shortcomings, so that's why I gave it the full 4.
I have skimmed a few other reviews, and one thing I noticed is that people didn't appreciate the attempt at Russian culture. I know pretty much next to nothing about Russia, I wasn't born there, didn't grow up there, barely studied it in school, and while some of my friends were learning Russian in high school I was busy with Spanish. I couldn't even begin to comment on the Russian elements in this book because I would inevitably be wrong. So all I will say is that I hated (and I mean HATED) having random "Russian" words thrown in in italics for effect. If you're going to throw around terminology like that, at least give us more than a sentence to absorb what it actually means, because I pretty much skipped every single one of them after I learned what a kefta was.
Secondly, a lot of people have said that the first person teen girl narrative (so incredibly overdone today) is distracting, and she reads more as a damsel in distress than a strong female character. This is pretty much accurate and I agree. I thought Alina was pretty ridiculous at times, especially when she randomly *squees* with Genya over clothes and hair and girly things. From the first couple of chapters, Alina didn't seem girly at all. AT ALL. And I don't care if she's girly or not, but at least let her character be consistent. Too often I was taken out of the story by Alina's change in personality, and it became very distracting.
Thirdly, what is it with books where people in authority grab the main character by the wrist and lead her (almost always a "her") somewhere she doesn't want to go?
But despite the book's shortcomings, and that ending that was completely out of character for Alina, I had a good time reading it. And that's mostly what matters to me when reading. I have problems when the flaws outweigh the good, but in this, even though I minded, and even though I didn't like Alina as a character, the read was enjoyable. It was pretty fast-paced and exciting, even though nothing is really explained (like HOW exactly Alina "trains" her talent, and why she trusts one specific person over anyone else ever ever ever), and even with its flaws. A shaky but interesting fantasy. I look forward to seeing what else this author can do.
View all my reviews