Genre: Fiction; Fantasy; Young Adult

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 5

There have been only a handful of times a series captured my interest at the level I would define as “obsession”. There’s, of course, Harry Potter along with Twilight, House of Night, All Souls and now, Shadow and Bone. The best part? I have so much more of the Grishaverse left to explore. Oh, and Ben Barnes as the Darkling. He’s also the best part.

Shadow and Bone

I first read Shadow and Bone (Book #1) in preparation for the Netflix show released last year. It hooked me immediately.

The nation of Ravka is divided by the Shadow Fold, a rift of complete darkness filled with monsters who feast on humans, and the fate of the nation depends on Alina Starkov, a lonely orphan and cartographer in the First Army.

Aline’s life changes when her lifelong best friend is attacked on a journey through the Fold. She finds power she never knew she had and is immediately pulled into the world of the royal court and the Grisha, an elite group of magical soldiers led by the Darkling.

This first novel does a superb job of engaging the reader and setting the tone for the entire trilogy. We are side-by-side with Alina as she learns to navigate her new status and leaves her old life and friends behind. The tone is ominous and thrilling because at every turn we are surprised with another element of Leigh Bardugo’s excellent story-telling.

While you can guess some outcomes in this story, there will definitely be elements that catch you by surprise, which in my opinion is what moves a novel from good to great.

“They are orphans again, with no true home but each other and whatever life they can make together on the other side of the sea.”

Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone

Siege and Storm

The second novel in the trilogy, Siege and Storm (Book #2), feels a little slower and incomplete at times. But I feel that’s something all middle books struggle with because as readers we are so invested and want resolution – something that won’t come until the final book.

I will attempt to give a quick synopsis of the second book without giving away too much from the first. I can promise no big reveals. But, of course, reading the synopsis of books further along in the trilogy will always reveal something unknown about the first.

Alina is reunited with her best friend, Mal, as they try to live a life together. Following the events of Shadow and Bone, Alina attempts to hide her powers once again and live a “normal” life with the only person who has always been there for her. But, as all great hero stories go – normal is not something written into her destiny.

Our heroine continues her dance with the Darkling and attempts to unfold the mysteries of what is to come and what path she should take. Ultimately it comes down to one thing – not allowing the Darkling to acquire too much power.

“You know the problem with heroes and saints, Nikolai?” I asked as I closed the book’s cover and headed for the door. “They always end up dead.”

Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

We meet new characters in this one as our Grisha and those around them take to the sea. My favorite of our newcomers – Nikolai. He’s funny, witty, and probably the only decent character in the entire series (kidding, of course). We increase from two to three suitors for Alina’s heart, and while sometimes that can feel overwhelming in a novel, Leigh Bardugo writes it brilliantly. None of the love interests or plot lines feel forced.

Ruin and Rising

Here is where the going gets GOOD. What was this story missing so far – religious zealots?! Well, now is their time to shine. Deep and gut wrenching character development for all of our favorites? You bet. Spine tingling tension? You’ll get more than enough.

The most compelling aspect of Ruin and Rising (Book #3) is the tension building. As we tread through this story and build up to the final showdown you will slide to the edge of your seat, hold your breath, and feel your heart quicken as Alina moves toward her true purpose.

I won’t go into too much of the synopsis here in an effort to avoid spoilers, but the “big reveal” in this novel and the way everything plays out is BREATHTAKING. You will not expect it and you will love it all the more for that.

Alina prepares for her final confrontation with the Darkling and continues to explore the full extent of her power. With her own personal band of (sometimes reluctant) friends, she sets out to find the final amplifier in hopes that she can gain the power needed to bring peace to her country. All while struggling to accept the life she’s always wanted is slipping further from her reach.

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

Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising

The way this novel wraps up is not typically within the obvious tropes I enjoy, but Leigh Bardugo writes it so well and I’m so in love with the characters at this point I bask in the perfection of the conclusion. It’s gorgeous, brilliant, and it will make you wish you lived in the war-torn country of Ravka.

I have so much more to say that will absolutely include spoilers, so stay tuned for my “Let’s Talk About It” post where I will talk more in depth about the Shadow and Bone Trilogy.

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