Likes: Horror, macabre, fairy tales, ghosts, hauntings, serial killers, zombies, werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, time travel, orphans, clones, thrillers, classics, gothic
I like to read anything that tells a good story, duh ;) Genre doesn't really matter much but I tend to read dark fiction and fantasy the most. I skip chick lit and romance novels with a few exceptions for the extraordinary.
My ratings system:
5 stars - ADORED; plan to read over and over and over.
4 stars - ENJOYED; will likely read once or twice more.
3 stars - LIKED; may or may not read again ... someday.
2 stars - MEH; no plans to read again.
1 stars - I didn't enjoy the story and was lucky to finish.
0 stars - I couldn't or wouldn't finish for reasons that may or may not be listed in the review box.
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Bardugo melds classic archetypes with proven fantasy elements to deliver an entertaining albeit predictable story. If you're looking for something that's never been explored in the fantasy genre, you may be disappointed with Shadow and Bone. (It's somewhat "by the numbers" in that respect.) But, if you have a soft spot for tales with orphans, especially orphans who underestimate themselves only to later discover unknown abilities and powerful destinies, you'll probably enjoy this book.
I found the Grisha interesting and the worldbuilding satisfactory. It was easy to "see" the Grisha and the Darkling, and most things fit within their world. There was no confusion about the war, its effects, or the Fold. And all of that information was shared without the dreaded info dump.
The chemistry between Alina and Mal was spot-on; the love triangle and power struggle between Alina, Mal and the Darkling equally so. Alina's refusal to accept her new identity and power was understandable. However, there were a few times when I wanted to smack Alina upside the head. I didn't really have a firm grasp on the exact ages of Alina and Mal, but there were scenes she acted 15, which contradicted how mature she acted for most of the story.
The twist wasn't a surprise. Perhaps for newbie fantasy readers or young adults, it will be. But, alas, I saw that one coming from the fireside conversation. Still, it was necessary and I expect Bardugo will play with that dynamic in the sequels.
Note: There were a lot of similarities with other well-known novels, mostly in worldbuilding and plot. For example, the antler necklace and the One Ring (or the Elder Wand). So, long-time fantasy readers, don't be surprised if you find yourself reading this and thinking, "Oh, that's like in so-and-so."
3 1/2 stars for being well-written and tightly plotted; characterization was adequate and I believed the worldbuilding. Obviously I had a good time reading because I finished the book in one day (two sittings). So it's weird for me to admit that I probably won't pick up the sequel. I can't say why exactly ... I just don't feel that overwhelming need to read the next one as I have with other fantasy series.
Edited 3/29/13: Okay, after reading early reviews of Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2), I will likely borrow it from the library for a summer read.