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Book Review: Shadow & Bone Trilogy

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reminds Me Of: Beauty & the Beast meets Star Wars meets A Darker Shade of Magic

Triggers: Racism, Russia, Stockholm Syndrome, gAsLiGhTiNg, Toxic Masculinity

Publisher Synopsis: Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Follow Alina Starkov through Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising as she discovers her dormant powers and is swept up in a world of luxury and illusion. As Alina struggles to fit into her new life, a threat to the kingdom of Ravka grows―one that will test old alliances and challenge the very limits of magic, one that will forge a leader from a frightened girl.

Berkeley's Review:

This is a trilogy:

  • Book One: Shadow and Bone

  • Book Two: Siege and Storm

  • Book Three: Ruin and Rising

The first book is now a megahit on Netflix, but I think we all know it's because of Ben Barnes who plays General Kirrigan. Please see below for smoking context.

Leigh Bardugo is also the author of 'Ninth House,' which is easily one of my Top 10 books. I watched 'Shadow & Bone' on Netflix, and wanted to dive into this magical world on paper.

You've got a classic divided world called 'Ravka' which is split into 'East' and West' thanks to a dark sorcerer long ago who cast a shadowland through the continent. *OMINIOUS*

While the two separations tolerate each other, East Ravka is cut off from the rest of the world. West Ravka has the port of Os Kervo, which allows it to trade with the rest of the world. However Os Alta, the Capitol of East Ravka, is where the royal family still rules from. Can we say Iron Curtain, anyone?

So you've got the royals, who reign over the first army of Ravka - your traditional army. You've also got the SECOND army of Ravka - humans who are identified as magical called Grisha. Our main character, Alina Starkov, turns out to be a Grisha. But not just any Grisha... THE LONG LOST SUN SUMMONER.

The first book is primarily focused on her training with the Grisha, getting cozy with General Kirragan (the Shadow Summoner), and her mate Mal trying desperately to save her.


Turns out, the General was the baddy Sorceror from a thousand years ago, with a political plot to takeover. Alina is heartbroken, escapes to West Ravka with Mal, and goes into hiding.

The second book, my personal favorite, hones in on the royal family. Nikolai, the son and heir of the King, plays a major role in supplying the "rebels" hoping to take back the second army and keep baddy general from enveloping the world in shadow.

The third book, I just cannot.

One of my favorite takeaways from the trilogy is behind the names of the books. There are magical creatures that amplify Grisha power which Alina and baddy Sorceror search for throughout the trilogy. In the first book, it's a stag. I.E. 'Shadow and BONE.' In the second book, it's a serpent. I.E. 'Siege and STORM.' In the third book, it's a phoenix. I.E. 'Ruin and RISING.' It's a very clever subplot I thoroughly enjoyed.

But Berkeley, Your RATING!

Let's cut to the chase - the only reason this trilogy is even getting *three* stars is because of the fascinating political relations to our own post - WWII world. Unfortunately, I read this trilogy a year ago, and I think I've been so bitter at 'Ruin & Rising' that I haven't been able to address my feelings. I should probably talk to my therapist about it.

I'll put 25% of the reason behind the rating on myself for committing the faux pas of watching the show first, not realizing that in fact TWO series are woven together. The second series featured is a duology called 'Six of Crows.' A major part of the show that intrigued me was Ketterdam, Kaz Brekker, and his companions. Alas, they aren't in the trilogy.

The other 75% of the reason is the third book. I quite literally emitted a guttural scream at the ending. Just ask Patrick. Why, you ask?

You're telling me that after all the work Alina has done, Mal steps in and is suddenly a key player and saves the day? The guy who made fun of her in book one, and only fell for her after she become interesting? The guy who is quite literally the boy who graduated high school and never left his hometown? Nah. I hate it.

When Leigh introduced the back story of General Kirrigan, I.E. baddy Sorceror, I thought we were going to get a redemption arc (tear down that wall, Gorbachev!), or even better, a duo death to save the world. Instead, we get Alina and Mal back in their stomping grounds, 'having an ordinary life doing ordinary things.'

So there you have it, fellow wannabe summoners. My thoughts, the tea, the whole kit and kaboodle. I will not be taking other opinions into consideration. Thank you for reading if you got this far.

I'd say it's time for a drink...

Drink Pairing: Apparently in May 2021 I just made my own drink pairing called 'The Ginya.' Shocking. See Instagram for proof. It looks terrible, and if you say it too fast, you'll offend many Karens. 12/10 don't recommend.

Why? It got famous AF, and when I tried it, I died inside.

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1 Comment

Interesting. I can relate. I was excited to read Shadow and Bone after watching it on Netflix and thoroughly enjoying the show. I just didn't love the books as much as I'd hoped. My fault for having high expectations, I suppose. The story felt shallow compared to the on-screen drama. Mal is slightly less of a wet blanket in the first book than he is in the Netflix series, but I still wasn't routing for them. It was only afterwards I learned that the books are considered Middle Grade. That makes more sense. I can understand the central theme, of two childhood BFFs sticking together no matter what, appealing more to that age group. To me it didn't feel realistic…

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