This review contains spoilers! You have been warned!
Oh boy, oh boy. So I’m going to go literally point by point on the major things that caught my eye while reading Shadow & Bone. So here we go. Grab a snack, a drink, and a pet.
- Right after the events of the Shadow Fold, Alina dreams of the volcra who attacked Mal. In her dream, the volcra has grey eyes. In every interaction that Alina has with the Darkling, it is constantly noted that he has grey eyes. It really becomes obvious that the dream is a form of foreshadowing because every time the Darkling is mentioned, it’s like HE HAS GREY EYES OMG! Which made the affect of the foreshadowing less effective because it was so much in your face about it.
- There’s this girl named Zoya who apparently hates Alina because the Darkling favors her. But here’s the thing: there is literally zero context. This happens often. Any female character is instantly an enemy, even Genya who is friend’s of Alina has been villainized at some point. It is very much determined by Alina – who is the narrator – that Zoya hates her and there is no explanation or even a discussion on the matter. Given the time this book written, girl hate was a way to set the main character away from the other female characters. However, it still doesn’t justify the way that Zoya is villainized, or give context as to why there couldn’t have been a discussion on the it.
- The Darkling and Alina’s relationship is abusive, but I didn’t feel like it is romanticized. In fact, I see it as more of a relationship of power more than feelings. Since the Alina is the Sun Summoner, her power and existence is not as important without the Darkling. Both of their powers are stronger when in contact with each other. Or when they are used together. It also doesn’t help that the Darkling is an amplifier and Alina is useless without one. So, I think that their relationship is more on the basis of their power than their feelings. It really adds to the fact that he used Alina and her trying to fight back when she realized what she really meant for her. Alina point these things out:
“The Darkling might be lying, but I didn’t think so. He loved power, and Mal’s life gave him power over me.” (pg. 323).
“I had betrayed him? He had used me, seduced me, and now enslaved me, and I was the betrayer?” (pg. 325).
- Since this book really focused on the world building and the politics, it never really flushed out its characters. Especially Mal as a love interest. Since we are separated from him as Alina for about 70% of the book, we are to rely that their relationship has been there from childhood. This is where I wish there was more background to how they grew. For example, when Alina finally gains control over her powers in Baghra’s hut, it is connected to the flashback that we get to see. I wish we had more of that. Mostly because there is a lot that Alina feels about Mal, but it is never explored and since this is written in first person, it feels like she is keeping the reader at arm’s length.
- In a different note, there is so much traveling in this book. The last third of the book is set as Alina is trying to escape the Darkling. The way that it is set up, it is that each paragraph signifies a different part of the day. Which is very smart, but it becomes so repetitive because the whole thing is very much set in Alina’s head and the things talked about are always the same. She hungry and cold. They’re walking, and trying to not die at night. So it doesn’t add to the story. It would be nice that we had more context of Alina’s past compared to the repetitive nature of her journey. Even when Mal finds her, their relationship is so sudden, and it feels so odd and forced. Out of nowhere, Mal – who throughout the entire book was being as helpful as a wet piece of paper – decided that he loved her. It was so forced and so weird. It didn’t really seem real.
- The ending was so good, but it dragged on. Again, it would be better if there was less of it, leaving in more suspense. Mostly because Alina made the decision to save Mal and use her sun summoning powers to get them to safety. So the entire scene of her regaining her powers from the Darkling’s collar was so beautiful and Alina making the decision was so interesting to see. HOWEVER, there was no need to go on and keep talking about what happened after they left the Shadow Fold. Mostly because it becomes obvious that the Darkling didn’t die. Alina herself said that if she didn’t see a body then it doesn’t mean it is over. But because it took so long for the ending to wrap up it really made it seems like everyone else survived. Because obviously, she doesn’t know. She’s in a ship off to who knows where. Meanwhile, the Darkling is still in Ravka and still in control of the Shadow Fold. So like, there didn’t need to be that extra narrative. It doesn’t leave a very strong cliff-hanger.
- I will say I do love how everything really went back to the beginning. It began with the Shadow Fold and it ended with the Shadow Fold. The way the story line itself was executed in this sense was masterfully done. Alina started walking over to the encampment, being jealous of the Grisha, and almost being run over by the Darkling’s coach. It ended with her riding the Darkling coach, while hating that she was a Grisha, and going to the encampment.