Book Review

Book Review: Shadow And Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

This is the first series I picked for my 2019 Series Challenge – #2019FWSeriesPick – I would love for you all to join me; especially if you have unread series on your shelf like I do 😀 

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

I have to be honest; Six of Crows Duology; my first from Leigh Bardugo in 2018, has my absolute adoration & it was one of my top favourites in 2018 – so I went in with a whole lot of expectations; especially considering that so many of my favorite bloggers / bookstagrammers loved this trilogy! 

First, let me get the gushing out of the way – Leigh Bardugo is a master storyteller – her writing style is engaging, even with the foundation of Russian Mythology for a novice like me – was one of the few reasons why I actually ended up being hooked on to the series and binge – read it in a week of starting this trilogy! 

Alina and Mal, best friends and orphans grow up at an estate of a Duke, when they are drafted to serve their country. When they are tested by powerful Grisha; neither show any affinity for any magical aptitude so Mal ends up becoming an proficient tracker and Alina studies to become an Army Catrographer; hoping for a humdrum life. 

It is only when their regiment is ordered to cross the Shadow Fold; a deadly rift diving Ravka into East and West Ravka; is where Alina discovers powers she never had any idea she possessed – and becomes the most powerful person in the kingdom along with The Darkling.  

And thus starts the adventure of magic, mayhem, mystery and betrayal.  

Alina is a teenager at the end of the day – and that fact becomes clear throughout the book, with her conflicting feelings towards two different makes in her life – Mal and The Darkling (I mean, c’mon! Another love triangle in a YA Fantasy? Cliché! Cliché! Cliché!). 

While it was easy to relate with Alina, yet somehow it wasn’t easy to like her – her damsel in distress routine, her lack of backbone most of the book, and how easily she believed that her worth was based on her looks – all of it did get on my nerves intermittently throughout the book (and the series, tbh!). 

Mal, on the hand, doesn’t really have a whole lot of character growth in the book – and while I know that he has his own importance in the series; it did make me ambivalent towards him; especially when it is made abundantly clear in atleast half of the book that he is quite the playboy – and that didn’t endear him to me; especially considering that he only took notice of Alina, when she became more than his best friend.  

“Fine. Make Me Your Villain.”

The Darkling (hi -5 on the name Ms. Bardugo!) is raw, riveting and enigmatic villain of the story – and I can understand why so many of readers are drawn to him; just like Alina was – but somehow even though I was quite intrigued by his character; something stopped me from falling into his trap – so with that climax wasn’t exactly a surprise to me; in fact I was actually expecting such a turn in the plot!  

Now off to the second book – Siege and Storm!  


Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Before diving into the second book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy – I was quite apprehensive that I would fall into the dreaded second book syndrome – where the book just turns up to be a filler for the conclusion.  

And somehow Siege and Storm just barely squeaked by – and it was all because of the introduction to a new character – Nikolai; the second prince of King with a whole lot on his resume; which I have to be honest is only one of the many freaking reasons I adore this guy – he is charming, charismatic and fascinating; especially with his banter which made everyone around him either hug (or kiss him, in my honest opinion!) or punch him – but it’s never going to be any in between reaction. AND I LOVE THAT! He is the only one who made my experience with the second book, better than I would have expected.  

“I have seen who you truly are; and I have never turned away.

I never will.”

Alina, on the other hand, is slowly discovering the lengths of her power; but her characters growth is still iffy in this installment – in fact, if I am not mistaken, I grew a little more ambivalent towards her, though the climax did make me sit up and take notice of her, a little more closely.  

Mal, on the other hand, still a spoiled brat (& I don’t even know how, with him being an orphan and everything!) even with being the protector that Alina needs and wants – he is still not able to reconcile with the fact that there are other men interested in Alina and she has more things to focus on than just him; even though it’s quite clear that no one has her attention like Mal does. 

The Darkling, lastly doesn’t have much of character growth in this book; but there parts he is quite important & I am honestly looking forward to how he grows in the conclusion. 

Here’s to hoping that the conclusion gives me everything that I have hoped from this trilogy! 


The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

I have no idea how to write this review – at the end of any series; I am supposed to feel a sense of a closure – and while I have to honest; if it hadn’t been for Nikolai; with a little bit of surprising twists and turns along with secondary characters who finally got their due; I doubt I would have given it the rating that I did.  

Alina had the chance to become the kick – ass, strong and deserving of the big destiny she had – but the fact she started to sparkle, yet lost the chance to become one of the brilliant and commanding female in YA fantasies – yet somehow her need to be ordinary and normal, overshadowed her role to be the savior of Ravka! 

Mal, ah – I have been quite vocal about the fact that Alina and Mal deserve each other – where Mal is predictable, and the only one who didn’t see the appeal of Alina until she actually started showing interest in someone else. But in this conclusion, he did redeem himself; mostly because he FINALLY understood what Alina’s power meant, not only to her but to Ravka as well and became the main source of support for Alina; especially the selfless way he helped in the war, almost made me a fan of him, though not enough to forget the way he was in the first two books. 

“I will strip away all that you know, all that you love, until you have no shelter but me.” 

The Darkling, where do I even start with this villain? Like I have expressly in the last two reviews – Darkling is a complex character yet somehow captivating as well as contradictory – and even though I found him intriguing, there was still something special missing to make me fall irrevocably in love with him. I honestly think, that if Ms. Bardugo had given him the space and time in the plot, that he required to grow on me as a loveable villain. 

Now when it comes to Nikolai – he has my heart and soul, wholly and fully. He is the, now King of Sass and Scheming – you would never know how and when this man (teenager?) would end up making you laugh in tense situations. Plus, he goes through some pretty twisted circumstances, that are NOT touched at all and one that I am hoping that Ms. Bardugo will go in detailed details with King of Scars.  

“You might make me a better man.

And you might make me a monster.”

Also, secondary characters like Genya, Zoya and David finally got their due; though it did feel as if it was a little too late into the series – but their brand of sass, humor and couplings, made for an interesting read – and one of the major reasons why I gave this conclusion the rating I did.  

Just like the previous two books, the main climax of the book happens only in the last 30 or odd pages; and somehow in this conclusion, everything about the climax was underwhelming. Too many loopholes, and the way the book ended?  

Just know that if I hadn’t already read Six of Crows Duology (Read My Review), I don’t think I would have been able to complete this trilogy – because trust me Ms Bardugo has grown leaps and bounds in terms of writing and plotting style & that’s why I am eagerly waiting for King of Scars eagerly.  

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ .25

(for the full series)


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