Paul's Review (with video!)
I love a good YA fantasy book, and this was no exception. The world is so interesting, and so well constructed, that I feel like it could really exist somewhere. Bardugo provides enough details for readers to construct the world in their minds, but doesn't overwhelm them with too many details. And the UnSea sounds like an utterly terrifying place to be.
I loved the idea that the Grisha practice a "Small Science," which most other authors would refer to as magic. It was definitely interesting to see magic-like abilities described in a kind of scientific manner for once. I liked that the Grisha were divided into different categories, and that there were a finite number of different powers they could have. While some powers are more rare than others (Genya, the Darkling, and Alina have powers that no one else seems to share), there still isn't an infinite number of things the Grisha can do.
I also loved how dynamic all of the characters were. Alina changes so much over the course of the novel, trying to discover who she is and what her powers mean. Her emotions are so conflicted most of the time that it's hard not to sympathize with her. And the Darkling is such a complex creature that I'm still not sure I completely understand him or his agenda. He's strong, sexy, powerful, and scary all at the same time. Although it is a little bit creepy that he's like 120+ years old and he's all over Alina, who is 16... Regardless, I'm very ambivalent towards him, and can't decide if I like him or hate him.
Even the minor characters are well developed in the short amount of time they appear. Genya was probably one of my favorite characters in the book, and she receives very little screen time compared to everyone else. Mal too - he's missing for a good portion of the book, but it's almost like he never leaves, with how much Alina talks about him.
One of my only gripes was that I felt that Alina focuses too much on how beautiful everything is. Genya is stunning, the Darkling is beautiful, all of the Grisha are so pretty/handsome, etc. Every time Genya shows up, Alina mentions her beauty. And every time Baghra shows up, she mentions how she's not at all beautiful. Like, ok, we get it. You've never seen any beauty in your life. Let's move on now, please. There's much more to people than their exteriors. It doesn't take anything away from the story, but it doesn't really add much either.
Other than that though, and a few minor things, I thought Shadow and Bone was excellent. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA Fantasy novels, especially darker ones with many twists and turns. It actually kind of reminded me of a YA version of the Sword of Truth novels. This book is definitely not one to be missed! Go read it now if you haven't yet! I can't wait to read the rest of the Grisha trilogy and see what Alina and Mal will do next. I would give this one a 5/5!