The following book review for Shadow and Bone was published on the Wood Library Teen Scene blog by Kelley Blue, a librarian at Wood Library in Canandaigua and member of the TBF Committee:
Why is writing a review of a book you love so much harder than writing about one you... loved not so much?
I indulged myself by reading Shadow and Bone and its sequel, Siege and Storm, back-to-back. What a luxury it was! Things started a bit slow for me... I even doubted for a few chapters whether I would dig this series. But then! Oh my! I was swept off my feet. How? Why? Because Alina Starkov's life goes from 0 to 120 in a matter of pages, and the pace, the magic and the sensuality don't really slow from there.
The best type of heroine, Alina starts from nothing and must quickly come to grips with a tremendous power she never knew she had. This is an archetype I never really get tired of, especially when it's done as well as Bardugo does it. When we first meet Alina, she's a orphaned teen apprenticing cartography in the First Army of Ravka (peep a map at the front of both books for a geography lesson; #yeahbookmaps). An important thing you need to know about Ravka is that it has literally been torn in two by a swath of physical darkness known as the Shadow Fold (it's just "the Fold" for short, ya'll). The Fold is full of some really nasty creatures that will eat you, and the Fold may be growing. It's, like, a huge problem and plays a central role in the politics of the book. But now, back to our heroine:
By her own accounts (and she may be a tiny bit hard on herself), Alina's not much more than average in all departments, until one day a life-and-death situation while crossing the Fold forces her dormant powers to the surface, and she is thrust into the world of the Grisha.
The Grisha are people born with special abilities like summoning and controlling wind or squeezing the life out of a person's heart. In neighboring countries, they're hunted down and burned as witches, but in Ravka they are enlisted into the powerful Second Army, led by a dead-sexy character known as the Darkling.
When Alina's power is discovered, she is "taken under the wing" of the Darkling more or less by force, whisked off to the royal capital in the hopes that her powers can be harnessed and used to fight the Fold. Alina is also separated from her one and only friend/childhood companion, Mal, who she has serious unexplored romantic feelings for. Remember when I said the book swept me off my feet? This is about where it happened.
While the adventure moves along quickly, we also get some wonderful character development and growth, especially moving into book 2. I read a lot of YA, and I read a lot of YA series, but this series is at the top of my list right now, alongside Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. I will eagerly await the third book in both of these series, and gush about the first two books to anyone who will listen until then.