Book Review: The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Gathering Dark / Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Book One in The Grisha Trilogy

Synopsis: "'I've been waiting for you for a long time, Alina,' he said. 'You and I are going to change the world.'The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a man of seductive charm and terrifying power. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?"

My thoughts: So you might be wondering why I've put two titles and two images up above for this book. Well, I'm still a little confused myself, but basically the Shadow and Bone title is more well-known, while The Gathering Dark title was an alternate release title in England or something? Okay, yeh, I don't really know at all, but trust me that I have checked and rechecked and these are the same book. Now then...

The magical world of this book is set in Russia, and I have to say I like that Bardugo chose a setting that hasn't seen a lot of exploration in terms of magical worlds. Often you find this sort of story being set in England, Ireland, and occasionally America. So Russia was an interesting choice and added an air of mystery into the book that I loved.
I found the characters to be wonderful and slightly complex - Alina in particular given that we are privy to her thoughts. I occasionally felt that she could be a bit vapid and childish about some things, but overall I thought she was very well-written and reacted to her new life in a way that I found fascinating to follow.

I will try not to say too much about how the story unfolds, but when it comes to the changes in Alina, I think I had a personal investment in her story. The way she suppressed her power spoke to something in me, and that made me even more determined to find out what happens to her. And with the introduction of a love triangle, I worried that this would be written awkwardly and make me want to yell at the characters for being stupid, but Bardugo writes this scenario so well that I found myself caught up in each new romantic event. The twists in the story are excellently written, too (and that is all I will say on that).

I suppose the only criticism I would have is that occasionally when a character was surveying a vista or some sort of landscape or person, it kind of felt like the writing was telling me about it, rather than showing me, and I found myself wanting to skip over these parts to get back to the characters. This is quite a slim form of criticism however, so I might just wait and see what happens next.

I think the thing that surprised me most about this book is that, normally when I read a book, I develop opinions on characters and rarely do I change them. But this book got me changing my opinion on people and feeling unsure as to what was going to happen next. After I have read a fair few Fantasy YA books, this is a bit of a feat, and I was surprised at how invested I was in the story and how desperately I wanted to know what happens next. Needless to say, I am very nearly frothing at the mouth to have my hands on book two.

You would like this book if: You like YA fantasy; you enjoy a good love triangle; you find unusual forms of magic based in Russia interesting.

Rating:  9/10

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