Shadow and Bone
Here we go.
Alina is an orphan and completely in love with her popular best friend, Mal. She’s also a mapmaker for the King’s Army, but to finish her training, she and Mal and several other soldiers have to cross the Fold, a curtain of darkness separating the country of Ravka. But while in the Fold, Alina discovers that she possesses the power to destroy the Fold once and for all.
I first read this book back in…2017. I was just coming off of my third love triangle book in a row, almost DNFed Shadow and Bone, and then managed to give it 4 stars on Goodreads? Make it make sense.
As an adult™️ now, I wanted to re-read it, especially after I found myself loving the show (which I started watching only for my Crows and then kept watching because holy shit it was good??). This book wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but it wasn’t good either.
Starting off with what I didn’t like, per the usual:
I know. I know, this book was published in 2012. I am aware. I can still complain about the overabundance of “love triangles” in YA fantasy, okay? This is my review, I do what I want. But I am so tired of “love triangles.” I am ready for actual love triangles, where both the male love interests also fall in love. That would be amazing, and not at all like two territorial idiots fighting over another human being. It makes my skin crawl.
This book has the same problem as the vampire genres. The Darkling is old as fuck, but he’s in love with…is Alina 18? I’m going to assume she’s 18. And we’re supposed to believe the Darkling is actually falling for her or something? No. Absolutely not. Age gaps are fine and all between certified adults: I have absolutely no problem with a person in their late 20s dating someone in their 30s or 40s, because by the late 20s you’ve seen some shit. You’ve matured. Why the FUCK does an essentially IMMORTAL BEING like the Darkling want an 18? And a dumb one at that?
Alina is not a smart character. She makes very, very dumb decisions, and a lot of the bad things that happen are entirely her fault because she’s an idiot. And it’s probably because she’s 18 and doesn’t know any better, which is fine. Show me an 18 year old that doesn’t make stupid decisions. I’ll wait. But the fact is she’s given so much shit about being stupid too. It’s fine if I’m frustrated as a reader, especially from such a beloved and hyped book, but other characters think she’s dumb too, and I won’t have that. SHE’S 18. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT.
Mal is so fucking annoying and I hate him. He gets hardly any characterization, besides Alina pining over him. I know he’s attractive, he’s a great tracker (like, a great tracker) and he’s a dick to his friends. Did I mention that he’s a great tracker too? Because he is. And when he finally gets substantial screen time, he spends half of it mad at Alina for finally feeling like she belongs somewhere (because how dare she, after he’s spent the past few years essentially ignoring her) and the other half refusing to allow her to think for herself (going into the village is a bad idea, which is reinforced when they get attacked by theives. Her asking him to kill her if they get caught is a bad idea, because how could he ever not let her turn into a monster). It just ties back in to what I was saying about how I’m allowed to think Alina is dumb, but not the other characters, and ESPECIALLY not her main love interest?? That’s toxic and gross, no thank you. I will personally nuke this ship.
I really hope more happens in the next few books because boy howdy, not a whole lot happened here. Alina moped around a palace for half of it and then moped in the woods for the other half. Thank god the show added in the Crows because if they had just made Shadow and Bone? Jesus.
If I ever read the word goggling again I will cease to exist. It was only used twice in this book and that was twice too many times.
What did I like? Not a whole lot. I liked Genya. I liked the mystical stags. I liked the political dynamics, as little as they went into them. I liked how easy it was to read. I can understand if this was a book that got a lot of people back into reading, because if you just go with the flow, it can be very fun. As an avid reader, and after finishing much better books recently, it wasn’t exactly fun for me, but such is life. I’m told that Nikolai in the next book makes this trilogy so much better and you know what? I’m tired of having to wait for a second book to make things better. Make the first book good 2k22; that’s my new campaign.
I love the show, dearly, and with my whole heart. There is so much behind the scenes that we miss in the book, and the show did an excellent job of showing what was happening while Alina was being boring. I love the casting and, seeing the additions for the next season, I am so excited for the second season. My first tattoo was Six of Crows inspired, and I was worried I would be skipping parts of the show to get to them, but it was fine. Alina, the Darkling, Mal: they were all fine. They’re so much less insufferable than their book counterparts, and I appreciate that.
Anyway. We’ll see if the second one is actually the promised good one, or if I also want to throw Nikolai off the top of the Grand Palace.
Trigger warnings: animal death, violence, death, toxic relationship, blood, sexual assault, death of parent, war