Shadow and Bone was an amazing surprise, I was not expecting to be so widely entertained. In a nutshell, I did not know I needed Grisha in my life!
There are several extremely positive elements in the book. First and foremost, the writing style, nothing is left to chance and the story telling is plain and straight forward and it made for a very fast read!
I am an absolute fan of magic in general and I have a soft spot for magic systems that make sense and are properly explained. Shadow and Bone delivery here at a level no other YA fantasy book I read has done so far. It could have been exploited more in the first book but there is better use of it in the following books! Nevertheless, the depth of explanation and rationale present in this book is impressive.
The world building is fairly interesting and linear albeit there is a limited use of the map itself - better said, there is limited use of the surrounding countries. Throughout the book there is a significant reference to the threat that the neighboring countries pose, especially to Grisha, yet there is very little impact in the book. Hopefully, future story lines will develop this aspect in particular!
As for the characters, I truly enjoyed Alina, a strong female lead who will be a savior - although she does not know yet - and she grows into her role. She is also smart and wants to be able to be independent. I thought this is the right message of empowerment that should be delivered in this kind of books! I also truly enjoyed her surprise and amusement in discovering what a Grisha is and really means, how it impacts her life style and how her way of living changes. I might have expected a more significant use of the classes to provide a deeper explanation of the magic system but it is a personal twist I would have given.
The Darkling was a positive surprise in the book. Provided that for the longest I really thought he was on team good, I thought he was a villain with depth, greedy yes but with some humanity left inside of him.
Finally, I had two concerns with the book that determined the loss of a full star.
One is the story line: Baghra shows up at Alina's door when Alina is the most infatuated of the Darkling, to convince Alina that the Darkling is the bad guy. And Alina, against any rational thought process, just takes the old lady's word for it and runs away. I just thought this moment was too thin and poorly built - it itched my brain for the remaining part of the book.
The second was the Tailor. I did not understand the use and usefulness of such a vain character with vain powers aiming only at making people look better? What was worse was the acceptance by Alina of this type of magic, even thought she tends to put up a little fight before. I genuinely disliked this piece of magic and the use of it in the book.
In essence, though, this is a great book to read, a great kick off of a brand new series and it is highly recommended especially for those who like fantasy, magic and Russian setting!