First Read in 2021: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Regardless how various the fantasy sub-genres I ran into last year, it had surprisingly been a while since I last experienced a book with fantastic world-building layered with formidable magic and kingdom. Set in an imaginary world called Ravka with Os Alta as its capital, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo reminded me of how much I missed going deep into an alternate unknown world, facing an adventure alongside badass characters.

Following the story of an orphanage called Alina Starkov, Shadow and Bone sets in the world where Ravka is now torn in two by the Shadow Fold which in it nest dangerous creatures named Volcra. When Alina and her regiment are attacked and her only best friend Mal comes very close to dying, something deep inside her reveals itself in a form of blinding light. Alina turns out to be a Sun Summoner, a very rare Grisha that allegedly could bring their country to freedom.

With this knowledge on hand, she is brought by force to the royal court to be trained alongside other Grisha. Also known as the Second Army, Grisha is a group of magical elite led by the handsome and mysterious Darkling.

I didn’t face any difficulty grasping the concept of various Grisha and their specialized powers all thanks to the fact that I had read Six of Crows two years ago (still is one of the most amazing books I’ve encountered in my entire life). As a matter of fact, I could imagine how confusing it must be for a first-timer to try to understand the terms used in Grishaverse. Though it had been two years and I had pretty much forgotten which was which, the first half of Shadow and Bone didn’t exactly confuse me like Six of Crows did.

I had never thought it would be possible for me to fancy a villain until this book proved me otherwise. All along I felt like there was a big enough room for each of the characters to develop their depth thus the thought of this story as a trilogy excited me. Even though Shadow and Bone's Alina might have given us the impression of someone who was easily distracted by boys (the Darkling and especially Mal), I didn't find her annoying. Her character progression was actually pretty great and she was quite funny in my opinion. 

This could be an unpopular opinion also, but I did find the first half of this book interesting albeit a bit slow. One of my favorite tropes in the fantasy genre is when the main character who sometimes feels like an outcast goes into an academy after discovering her hidden power. Even though it's a bit cliché, I always find it engaging if properly executed. In this case, the court was the academy, Alina was the witty main character I was rooting for the whole time, while her bond with Genya almost reached my standard for adorable fictional friendship; so all in all they were all done pretty well.

Overall, I enjoyed the first book of The Shadow and Bone trilogy very much hence I really couldn't wait to get into the next installment soon. And for your information, I'm not used to watching a book-to-movie adaptation if I have read the book first, but I think I'm going to make an exception for this one. I promise no such thing as finishing the whole series once the Netflix adaptation comes out, but a peek or two I will definitely do.

Actual rating: 4.5