The End of an Era?

Why must you leave me so conflicted?

A review of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

If I read this maybe five years ago, I probably would have fallen in love with it. Now that I’m older (wiser?), novels like Shadow and Bone have me worried that my long-standing love affair with YA is beginning to falter. Cue the sad violin music.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think it was a fun book. I finished it in the span of two days in maybe three sittings. Bardugo writes well.  The premise was fun. But it seems like I’m losing the ability to turn my brain off and ignore the sorts of things that usually bother me about YA Lit. Let’s start with the characters. 

The best way I can describe Alina, our heroine in the tale, is…”meh”. Not so aggravating that I can’t keep reading, but not exactly the heroine I root for. She has the typical *Special Snowflake* personality all female YA protagonists have nowadays. Then there’s best friend turned love interest Mal. Aside from past memories they share, it’s hard to see what makes Mal stand out so much from all the other trope-y beautiful, talented men that find Alina so amazing (this is a YA novel, after all). He’s kinda mopey and dopey, and not in a way that produces compassion or endearment.

The characterization of the Darkling, however, was probably the best thing about this book. There are many layers of complexity to him, not all of which are revealed. If I do pick up the next book in the series, it will largely be for his sexy self. I wish, though, that Bardugo could have given him a little more variety in his facial expressions. I couldn’t count the number of times he “hinted at a smile” or “the corner of his mouth slightly rose” or “a smile played at his lips”…maybe he’s self-conscious about needing dental work?

There’s also the world building–key to any fantasy novel, heavy or light. Overall, I enjoyed reading about the Grisha, their capabilities, and what they were fighting against–is there anything more frightening than the dark, and what it may contain? In fact, I wish we spent more time in that bleak blackness to really feel how creepy it really is. Still, the land of Ravka is far from a perfect fantasy setting. Why was everything so wannabe Russian? “Wannabe” being the key word because, as I’ve learned, the heavy-handed sprinkling of Russian language used isn’t even accurate. Don’t get me wrong–Russian language, dress, and customs are pretty interesting. But this doesn’t take place in Russia, so…?? I don’t know, I don’t think this bothers many readers, but to me it felt like lazy world building, and left a bad taste in my mouth every time I came across a poorly utilized Russian word, which was so damn often.

I can’t deny my frustration with the giant amount of YA tropes found in this book. I can already take guesses at where the rest of this trilogy goes, and I’m wary of being disappointed yet again at the ending of another. Time will tell if I end up reading Siege and Storm.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

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7 thoughts on “The End of an Era?

  1. Ana says:

    I am glad I am not the only one feeling dreary with YA these days. Usually I like the theme but not the execution, as most books seem to follow the exact same formula.

    I guess part of it is that I no longer feel that the protagonists are cool for being rebellious, just plain annoying and whiny. Not sure if that makes me wiser, as you put it, but it does make me wonder if there is a market out there for people like me. I like fantasy, but do not relate with teens or romance in the least.

    Great review; you brought up quite a few points I agree with, so I will be skipping this one.
    Pretty high rating, all things considering!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ameliafawkes says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review! 🙂
      It’s true–all YA feels like it follows the exact same storyline. I left the rating pretty high because I did enjoy it while reading it…books like these tend to lose their shine after closer inspection (aka when it’s time to review) but I still gave it credit for a fun reading experience.
      There is the growing genre of “New Adult” seemingly created for us disenchanted YA lovers. I haven’t read too many of those, but I’ll hopefully test some out this summer and see if it’s the answer we’re looking for!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ana says:

        I understand about the rating. It’s funny how you feel a certain way about a book while reading it and then a few days after finishing.

        I have heard about New Adult, but I feel like I don’t get enough fantasy out of those books, and have trouble relating to some of the themes. It’s so hard to find a balance!! Let me know if you think of any books along these lines that you could recommend to me, will ya? 🙂

        And I will try to keep an eye on your reviews, hopefully you will read and review those few you got soonish.

        In the meantime, I think it is time for me to browse through different genres. I am counting on reading Disclaimer by Renée Knight next.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Similarly to Mina, I’m not sure if I’m going to continue this […]

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  3. […] good but it felt a little too copycat to me. This takes everything I found so “meh” in Shadow and Bone and not only fixes it, but improves it. This…this is new. […]

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  4. […] and whatshisface from Shadow and Bone. I can’t speak for what happens in the rest of the trilogy, but I found absolutely zero […]

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  5. […] Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo — everyone and their mother loves this book, and word is it’s much better than Shadow and Bone. […]

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