Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)

Bardugo, L. (2012). Shadow and Bone. New York: Henry Holt and Co. Print.

Reader’s Annotation

When Alina’s magical powers are discovered she’s removed of everything she’s ever known. Life in the First Army, with her best friend Mal, becomes a painful and ever distant memory as she begins to focus her attention to developing her long dormant talent. Things aren’t as simple as they seem though and as the secrets of the Grisha begin to unravel so does Alina’s ability to tell who and what she can trust.

Plot Summary

Alina and Malyen, Mal, are best friends. They grew up together in the Duke’s orphanage and while they’re not in the same unit now that they are old enough to serve in the First Army, at least they’re together and can often chat after a long days march. When Alina and Mal have to cross the Fold, a wasteland completely devoid of light an inhabited by terrifying harpy-like monsters, the volcra, Alina is scared but remains hopeful that the First Army will make it across without incident. Unfortunately Alina is wrong, and her unit is attacked by volcra.

After Alina saves Mal’s life by releasing long dormant magical powers she had no idea she even possessed she’s immediately whisked away to train with the Grisha, the elite magical army lead by the alluring and handsome Darkling. Alina works hard learning to control her powers, but the lessons seem endless and she doubts her ability ever master what she’s spent her whole life denying. The Darkling never wavers in his belief of Alina, and is convinced her power is what will unite their war torn land. As the Darkling convinces Alina she can, and indeed must, master her powere, Alina begins to realize that things aren’t exactly as they seem. In a world where everyone is working toward their own agenda, Alina begins to realize that the only person she can trust is the one who has been with her forever. Will she ever find her way back to the safety of her best friend? Or is she a prisoner in gilded chains in the court of the Grisha?

Critical Evaluation

A lot of reviewers nit-pick Bardugo for her liberal use of a pseudo-Russian within the pages of Shadow and Bone. I can’t claim to know anything about how the Russian language works, so you’ll hear no complaints from me about how she’s doing it wrong. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that she’s not doing it wrong at all. Shadow and Bone is good. Alina’s character is appealing, and hardly simpering at all. She’s a good balance of hard and soft, a fierce young woman who knows she doesn’t know everything, but learns as the story progresses how to trust herself and what she truly loves. The novel isn’t so deep into fantasy cannon that’s alienating to readers who are outside of the normal fan base, there is enough realism there that I believe this work will be equally appealing to all readers.

Author Information

Leigh Bardugo is not your typical YA fiction author. Her day job is as makeup artist L.B. Benson, and her work has appeared on Re-Up/Toyota Scion,Project EthosHunters & Gatherers, the Discovery Channel, and well as the film Worth. Previous to her life as a make-up artist she wrote for television, companies like Oxygen Network, David E. Kelley Productions, 20th Century Fox and the L.A. Weekly.

Born in Jerusalem, Bardugo was raised in LA, and attended college at Yale. She currently lives in Hollywood where the majority of her work as a makeup artist is conducted. Shadow and Bone is her first novel and a New York Times bestseller.


Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, Magic, Dystopia

Curriculum Ties


Booktalk Ideas

Reading Level/Interest Age 


Challenge Issues

This novel is a little dark, deals with magic and has some gory scenes. Objections to this novel would be handled in a similar way to all other books in the collection. Our collection development policy clearly states that we defend censorship when faced with it and encourage parents and teens to decide which books are right for them to read together. Challenges to the collection can be made and will be reviewed by the board. The director will make the final judgement based upon the results of the board’s findings.

Reason for inclusion

A fun fantasy novel, a light easy read for readers of any level.

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