Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Hundreds of years ago, the Black Heretic created the Shadow Fold, ripping the kingdom of Ravka in two and leaving it weak and exposed to its enemies.  A vast Unsea of sand and death, what was once a rich, green valley of farms is now filled with darkness and the hungry screams of the volcra, winged nightmares who used to be men.  The only way across the Shadow Fold to the port cities on the True Sea is in sandskiffs heavily armed with archers - and Grisha.

Alina and Mal are orphans, raised in the benevolent (and absent) Duke Keramsov's household, along with other orphans of the Border Wars.  Inseparable since childhood, quiet, skinny, shy Alina is now a not-very-talented mapmaker in the King's First Army, and handsome, brave and cocky Mal is one of the First Army's best trackers.  Like everyone else, they were tested as children by the Grisha to see if they had an affinity for magic - children who do are whisked away to special schools, where they train to become powerful Corporealki, Etherealki, or Materialki Grisha, or witches, in the King's Second Army.  Found to have no magical affinity, Alina and Mal were allowed to remain together on the Duke's estate.

But on Alina's first crossing of the Shadow Fold, their skiff is overcome by hundreds of vicious volcra.  When Mal is attacked, something long buried inside of Alina breaks free.  The darkness of the Fold is pushed back by a blinding white light, and she passes out.  When she comes to, she finds herself under guard and being taken to the tent of the highest and most powerful of all Grisha - the Darkling.  To Alina's shock, witnesses say the bright light came from her, and the Darkling tells her that he believes her to be the first Sun Summoner to be born in Ravka in centuries - and the only one who can help him destroy the Shadow Fold.

Torn away from Mal and everything she knows, Alina is forced into a new world of wealth, power, and magic.  And although she believes it is her destiny to be the Sun Summoner and save her country, all she really longs for is Mal.  But the longer Alina trains with the Grisha, making new friends, developing her power and becoming closer to the mysterious, aloof Darkling, with no word from Mal, the more she worries Mal has forgotten her - or even worse, wants nothing to do with her now that she is Grisha.

But all is not as it seems with the Grisha, and when Alina discovers the truth behind the power of her destiny, she must decide who she wants to be - and who she wants to be with.

Captivating and magical, this richly imagined fantasy world is drawn from Russian folklore and fairy tales.  From the terror and darkness of the Fold where monsters lurk to the richly carved walls and inlaid gold of the Grisha's Little Palace, where even more monsters lurk, every piece of Alina's world is brought vividly to life.  Fans of the Graceling books by Kristin Cashore, Starcrossed and Liar's Moon by Elizabeth Bunce, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor will definitely want to add this newest epic fantasy to their list!

(now reading the fabulous Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl, a must for Jane Austen aficionados everywhere!)

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