Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd been reading rave reviews of this book. I thought I'd learned my lesson about that by now. Apparently not. While it was a perfectly readable book, there was nothing to distinguish it from a slew of other YA paranormals.

This book was like YA Mad Libs. (Girl's name) lives in the magical land of (made-up place), where the elites can (magical thing). (Same girl's name) doesn't fit in and isn't pretty, and is in love with (boy's name). Then she finds out she's (same magical thing), only special. She's whisked off to (place name) to learn how to use (same magical thing), but it's hard and nobody likes her, except for (another boy's name). Then she's torn between (boy #1) and (boy #2).

It's pure YA paint-by-numbers. While not all YA books follow this plot, it was close enough that I felt like the variations had been pulled from a hat.

In this book, the action is set in Ravka, a fantasy version of Russia, and the girl is Alina Starkov, an orphan. She discovers she's not only a Grisha (magical user), but one who might be able to heal the rift of darkness bisecting her country. The Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in the country, is suddenly paying her special attention, while most of the others are jealous, or They Just Don't Understand Alina's Pain.

The frustrating part of the book is that most of the conflict is internal. Alina needs to figure out how to use her power, how to control it, and how to amplify it. But the answers are all a matter of her figuring things out, or conveniently remembering certain events. Outside conflict stays on the back burner for about 80% of the story, while Alina whines and tries to figure out what's wrong with her. When the plot relies on a character figuring things out, some outside impetus can help. Otherwise, the reader is often left with the distinct impression the narrator is an idiot. She's not, but I was frustrated with waiting for her to be whacked upside the head with a clue-by-four.

I listened to the book on audio, and Lauren Fortgang did a mostly acceptable job. Her Darkling sounded a little too flat for my tastes, but I suppose it was what the narrative called for. My biggest complaint is that, while she was usually able to handle most of the pronunciation, it was inconsistent, and her "typical Russian" accent sounded like Boris Badenov. If I were Russian, I would've been insulted.

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