Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone

Leigh Bardugo
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
Henry Holt and Co. , 2012   ISBN: 978-0805094596

Centuries ago a Grisha Darkling created the Fold, a place of darkness that now tears the land of Ravka in two. To travel from the interior to the coast people have to travel across the Fold and risk being torn apart by monsters that live within the dead, dark place. For years now Ravka’s neighbors have been attacking the citizens of the beleaguered country and the lives of many Ravkans have been destroyed by the Border Wars.

Alina and Mal are both victims and refugees of these conflicts. Their parents are killed and both children end up in an orphanage that was set up by a concerned aristocrat who feels that the war orphans and widows should be taken care of. The children grow to depend on each other and become very close friends. When they are eight they are tested to see if they have Grisha abilities, and both appear to have no abilities at all. The children therefore remain at the orphanage and then, when they old enough, they are drafted into the army. Alina works with the cartographers, and Mal is a tracker.

Alina is not happy when she is told that her regiment is going to be sent across the Fold to West Ravka, but there is nothing that she can do about. They have to follow orders and that is all there is to it. Reluctantly, Alina and the other soldiers board sandskiffs that will carry them across the dark wasteland of the Fold. The sandskiffs will be powered by magic created by Squallers, Grisha who can raise and lower the pressure of the air and thus create a wind that will push the skiffs along. Other Grisha with abilities will be coming along as well to ensure that the skiffs reach their destination safely.

The skiffs are not in the Fold long before the volcra attack in terrifying numbers. Alina watches in horror as people around her are attacked and then snatched up by the flying monsters. Then Mal is attacked and Alina runs to help him. A volcra strikes her and then something amazing happens. There is a bright white light and then Alina faints.

When she comes to they are back in Ravka where their journey began and Alina is roughly taken to see the Darkling. He is the most powerful Grisha in Ravka and he tests Alina to find out if she is source of the bright white light everyone saw on the skiff. It turns out that she is. Alina is a Sun Summoner, which means she has one of the rarest and most powerful Grisha powers of all. She can harness light, and her ability could bring about the salvation of Ravka.

Alina is whisked away from her life as a soldier and is taken to Os Alta, where the king has his summer palace. This is also where the Grisha have their headquarters and where young Grisha get their schooling. Barely surviving the journey because of an attack by assassins, Alina and her protectors, including the Darkling, arrive in Os Alta. The girl who has had few comforts in her life suddenly has clean clothes to wear and as much food as she can possible want to eat. She lives in a luxurious palace with other Grisha, and her training begins.

It soon becomes apparent that Alina’s gift is buried deep within her and nothing she does releases the light, unless she has someone to help her do so. Alina is lonely and miserable and she stays thin, weak and wretched for weeks. Then, during a session with her teacher, Alina lets go of all her fears. She lets go of her pining for Mal and suddenly the light comes to her and it is hers to wield. Finally, Alina comes into her own a  true Sun Summoner.

Alina starts to bloom in her new home and her ability grows. She has hope for the future, never once imagining that the Darkling is not who she thinks he is. She never once considers that perhaps his motives are not as pure as they seem.

This incredibly moving and powerful novel takes readers into a world that is grim and full of hardship. While the Grisha and the ruling elite live lives full of luxury, many of the common people suffer, and they have to serve in the king’s army. Readers will be shocked when they find out who the Darkling really is and what his plans for Alina are. They will also hope that the girl who has so little will find out what really matters to her.