Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Fairy-tale fantasy with Russian overtones? Sign me up!

After reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik, I was excited to crack this one open. It seemed much more engrossed in the Russian culture, not just vague European fairy tales and names, but actual Russian settings and language. Growing up in Russia, this brings me the best type of nostalgia from my childhood.

However, I did a bad thing – I read reviews first. I found in on Amazon, and thus it was hard not to scroll down and take a peek. The very first review is titled ‘Fantasy Twilight’. Wow. Not a good start. I scrolled a bit, trying not to spoil myself, but my expectations plummeted. Still, I decided to give it a shot.

I actually enjoyed it! The book felt heavily laden with words and sometimes I had to go back and re-read paragraphs because I kind of lost myself along the way, but it was really well written, offering imagery that left nothing to the imagination.

The story itself gave twists and turns I didn’t expect, in ways I didn’t expect. The characters were believable – alive, flawed, and full of all kinds of real human emotions. But unlike many other YA novels, this one actually explains why and with good reason. As far as fantasy goes, these are the kinds of characters I like to see in it, pro- and antagonist alike.

I wouldn’t lump this in with the rest of YA out there like most low star reviewers. It is no Twilight, and I’m actually pretty angry at the reviewer for making such a false reference. This book (series) can stand on its own, and I despise anyone who takes major elements of genres and says all other books who have them aren’t worth reading.

The biggest downside of the book was the amount of technical issues. She really should have had a Russian proofreader because man, I cringed a lot. For example, in one sentence saying something in Russian and then immediately following it with the English translation, but only sometimes.

Then, using male/female name extensions wrong. Very wrong. And very annoying in context, though if you don’t know Russian you probably won’t be bothered by this.

And lastly, not actually knowing what something is and using it constantly, such as getting drunk on kvas. Um no. Toddlers can drink kvas and not get drunk – I know, I’ve been there. Leigh seems to think it’s the equivalent of beer, but it’s not. It’s kvas. It’s actually classified as non-alcoholic. That really made me roll my eyes, and took me out of the story.

But, seeing how Leigh is not Russian, she did a halfway decent job. I’ll give it a ‘you tried’.

Overall, great story and writing, if you want a full fledged fantasy with YA elements, I would recommend this for sure.


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