I adore reading. But of course I do! Otherwise, why would I be here reviewing books? Well, I also love my best friend. A lot. And whenever she reads a book and tells me about it, I want to read it. No matter how annoying or how much she disliked the book, I want to read it. To know what she experienced. To understand her fascination or frustration with the book. It's a way for me to get that much more closer to her. So when she read <i>Shadow and Bone</i> and told me that it had great concepts and interesting characters, I wanted to know exactly what she was talking about. Now, she and I have different tastes when it comes to books. Some things she loves and others I don't (and vice versa). Probably because she has a high tolerance level for stupidity, whereas I don't. I lose my patience easily and tend to look down on a book when something doesn't make sense or if the characters act foolishly for no apparent reason. This is why, during the latter half of this book, I had some issues with the story. That's not to say I hate the book entirely. There's still a lot of very interesting and entertaining parts to <i>Shadow and Bone</i>. However, I cannot overlook certain aspects that, I feel, were unnecessary.
Something I want to point out right from the start is how I never had any problems with Bardugo's take on Russian culture and language as other people seem to be having. I love languages and culture. I hope to become an interpreter/translator one day. So, yes, I understand why some people seem to be upset when Bardugo took a lot of liberties when it came to the Russian language. However, if you looked into it further and did some research, you will find out that it was deliberate. Bardugo said that whilst Russia was a huge influence on her book, she did not want to use a lot of the same principles, saying it wouldn't have fit into her world. Now, if you chose to disregard this and remain upset by the fact that she shouldn't have "messed around" with Russian language and culture, fine. But for me, personally, it wasn't a bother. Because when I read a book, I read it to enjoy it and not pick on every single little inaccuracy that the author has within said book. Unless the book is a nonfiction book where the facts are supposed to be that, facts, and inaccuracies would be learned by the reader instead of the truth, then I am not going to go out of my way to call her/him out on it. This is a fantasy novel. It's meant to be enjoyed and not taken seriously.
With that being said, I couldn't enjoy myself completely with this novel. Although I believed Bardugo had a very strong beginning, towards the end she fell into a lot of tropes that plague the YA genre. I believe she is a fantastic writer. Her decision to start off the book in third person to first and then third again was a bit... jarring but not a huge deal since the switch only happens during the very first and very last chapter of the book. She writes smoothly and makes it easy for the reader to understand without dumbing down her abilities. She has magnificent concepts that were beautifully established from the get-go. I love her world-building. I could envision the world of Ravka clearly in my head and follow the locations the characters traversed in flawlessly. Speaking of characters, for the first half of the book, I felt she had pretty strong characters with their own personalities and their own ideas. I really enjoyed that about Bardugo's book since it's very rare for me to find characters I like in these type of stories.
Now, here's where everything goes downhill for me and why I was, ultimately, disappointed by the end of this book. Bardugo was doing so well with her story and characters that once you reach the half-way mark of the book, you can notice a drastic change to the characters and the story. Alina, the main character, was sassy and strong-willed and opinionated. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind despite the fact she was afraid to do so at times. I liked that about her. She was flawed but not pathetic. However, somewhere along the line, all that changes. She becomes feeble-minded and was too trusting when she had no reason to be. Everything she was told, she believed! No one with a brain would ever do that and considering how strong of a character she started off as, this made no sense for Alina to do. Mal, her childhood friend and number one love interest, wasn't really much better. There's a part in the book where he and Alina are on the run, powerful magicians are after them, wanting to capture them, they could die at any minute so the most logical thing to do is get up and go! No turning back! No taking time! Just run! But what do they do? They stop at a town under the pretext that they were going to get "supplies"... but join a town celebration instead... WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD GO TO A PARTY WHEN THEIR LIFE IS IN DANGER!? It made no sense to me! I felt like Bardugo only did that to give away their position so that they could be captured.
Another character I had a problem with was the Darkling. (Keep in mind this is all during the latter half of the book. I had no problems with these characters before then.) I really enjoyed his character. He is a very powerful Grisha (a sort of magic user), one of the strongest, and everyone is afraid of him. They say he is dark and cruel and is relentless. But when you meet him, he seems to be a lot softer and kinder than what people make him out to be whilst still remaining strong and fearless. I liked that. I like a character that is three-dimensional. I don't like the idea that the Darkling is just black and white. That he's evil just for the sake of being evil. So I was very intrigued by his character... at first. Bardugo does something with his character that I cannot mention because it's a bit of a spoiler but just know that it was a cop-out. I did not want to see that. I've seen it before in countless other novels. Why would you do that in your novel as well? By the time I was done with the novel, I just thought that it was bland and, most of all, disappointing.
It's a shame, really. I was really enjoying myself. I really liked the beginning of the book. I loved all of Bardugo's ideas and her writing style was different but fun. It started off as a really great read... but then she slipped in YA tropes, with a love triangle, main characters being a complete fool, and the "villain" being your typical "Mwahahahaha! I am the bad guy" character! (Seriously, the "villain" did an evil laugh at one point... I was about to flip a table.) All-in-all, it's not a <i>terrible</i> read. There are some very good moments that I think some of you are going to enjoy. Just keep in mind that when you pick this book up, it will have very typical YA moments. But if that doesn't seem to bother you, you may very well enjoy this book.