Let's Talk Books · Life Updates

Life Update: I am Alive + Let’s Talk Books! Issue #2

Hello, world! I would like to apologize for being MIA from this blog for so many weeks. Life caught up with me, and when I have a list of tasks and priorities in front of me, something’s gotta give, and that something ended up being my blog. But no worries, I am alive and thriving. If I weren’t busy in college, something would be wrong — I love what I do!

I’d like to shout a huge THANK YOU for everyone who stuck with me and Taylor through our (attempted) March Writing Challenge! Though I never finished (lol….), I still love improv freewriting, and I plan on extending the remaining prompts to any time I have free to post my work. With the semester winding up, time is becoming very tight, so no promises. But I guess the beauty about writing a blog for myself is that there are no obligations, and no stress. Keep an eye out for my next writing post!

While I sacrificed writing with my free time, I read for fun instead! I managed to get through a lot of books for fun in the past semester (around 13 works of fiction thus far since January!) Over the next n days, I’ll be posting reviews from the books I read. At last, my very first book review will be in this post — I wrote a review on Shadow and Bone (The Grisha book 1) by Leigh Bardugo!

*Note: Truth be told, I actually whizzed through all 3 books in The Grisha trilogy within the span of about a month. While I ADORE this series and the last two books, I am only going to review Book 1. Hopefully this will spark interest in some future readers of this series.


Review of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Book 1 of The Grisha trilogy)

 

Publication: June 5, 2012

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Format I Read: Kindle Edition

My Rating: 4.5 / 5

Premise (taken from Goodreads):

“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.”

Things I loved:

  • The dynamics between characters. Main character Alina shares such genuine conversations with nearly every character she encounters—Mal, Genya, the Darkling, even Baghra. The way Bardugo writes dialogue is immense with direction and helps us understand how deep Alina’s connections run from character to character.
  • Leigh Bardugo’s impeccable world-building. The world of the Grisha is modeled after 18th-century Tsarist Russia. Reading the descriptions of this world, I can tell how much research and effort Bardugo underwent to create such a beautiful history. Dictionaries and Wikipedia were by my side the whole time. Not because you needed to research the vocabulary to understand (quite on the contrary: Bardugo’s writing is very clear and understandable,) but rather because I found myself so intrigued by the Russian model behind the Grisha world. I mean goodness, look at the beautiful world map (see above!)
  • A unique take on magic. The Grisha are the wielders of what’s called the Small Science in Ravka, meaning that each classification of Grisha can manipulate the matter of the world, but not produce it or destroy it. That’s in contrast to real magic, called merzost. (More about that in Book 2.)
  • Descriptions of food. Oh my GOSH, you guys. The food. This point of interest has been emphasized far and wide, and nearly every review of this series raves about Bardugo’s imagined feasts and meals.

“The food was less alien than I’d expected, the kind of food we’d eaten on feast days at Keramzin: sweet pea porridge, quail roasted in honey, and fresh figs. I found I was hungrier than I’d ever been and had to resist picking up my plate to lick it.”

“Food was a revelation: bowls of porridge heaped with sugar and cream, plates of skate fried in butter, fat plums and hothouse peaches, the clear and bitter taste of kvas.

“…they were gabbling about some of the dishes served to the nobles at dinner—roasted lynx, salted peaches, burnt swan with saffron.”

“We celebrated the feast of Sankt Nikolai with huge bowls of dumpling soup and kutya made with honey and poppy seeds.”

  • The Darkling. Enough said. How is it, Leigh Bardugo, that you managed write his character so well, that I found myself falling into the seductive ways of a character that’s literally named the Darkling? How? 
  • Beautiful writing. The descriptions in this book (really, in everything Bardugo writes) are so divinely written. Everything expresses such passion and brilliance, especially in the small details of the Grisha world. Easily the most beautifully-written series of books I’ve ever read.

Cons:

  • Pace. At times, this book stretched on excessively. My attention wavered a bit, especially in the beginning. That being said, I can see how the slow pacing is qualified: the world and Alina’s story is dappled with such immense detail that there is really no way around the slowness.
  • Action scenes. The action in this book was really hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes, there would be an action scene full of intensity, but the way Bardugo described the action made it seem as if there wasn’t really anything exciting going on at all. And other scenes, I found myself tensing up, my heart actually pounding.
  • Mal. Malyen Oretsev really frustrated me a lot. And gosh, just wait until book 2. Mal is insufferably intolerant and selfish. I understand Alina’s feelings for him, and I understand he has to be that way for the story to move but…for Saint’s sake, I wanted to punch him at times.

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Tsarpunk

Language and Vocabulary Level: Fairly advanced. I found myself using a dictionary oftentimes to clarify words, but Bardugo’s word choice is part of what makes up her gorgeous writing.

Violence: Pretty intense/grotesque descriptions.

Sexual content: Mild, verging on moderate.

POV: First-person, past-tense

You should read this book if:

  • You like high fantasy young adult novels and fairly detailed world descriptions.
  • You want a new, fresh twist on the aforementioned high fantasy genre.
  • You want a likable main character with an intriguing thought process.
  • You like reading books in which romance is not the main plot/genre, but a meaningful aspect within it.
  • You like vivid food descriptions. (Insert heart-eyes emoji)
  • You’re a sucker for dark, brooding, powerful love interests. (Team Darkling forever)
  • You want to experience such an emotional roller coaster that you physically/emotionally feel bad in real life while reading intense scenes. (At least for me!)

Thank you for reading! If you would like emailed updates from my blog, please scroll to the top of this page (or go to my homepage) and press the “+Follow” button at the bottom right of your screen to enter your email address. Don’t forget about my bullet journal and hobbies Instagram account, also called turbulentrhapsodies, to see all of my creative and academic endeavors!

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