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5.0 von 5 Sternen If you like Tamora Pierce or E. Moon's Paksenarrion, this book is for you!, 17. Juli 2014
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Synopsis [Book's back]

Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal - and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day her regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.

Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite lead by the myterious Darkling. With Alina's extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destroy the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will unconver a secret that could tear her heart - and the country - in two.

Review

As a fan of Elizabeth Moon's Paksenarrion books and Tamora Pierce's young female protagonists, who more often than not have to travel a [literal or figurative] hard road towards excellence and true heroism, I was thrilled to discover this book. Alina is a young woman, who has lot's of problems fitting in and who is being content to just live a rather unremarkable life as a mapmaker in the king's army. And when, early in the book, her hidden power is discovered [and I love the "hidden power" concept], her life changes totally and her own journey to herself and managing her power starts with a bang.

As is said on the book cover's synopsis: at the palace and the training grounds, not everything is as it seems and some revelations about characters, hidden agendas and plans, are discovered late in the book and at times where they hit Alina [and the reader] the hardest. As she tries to become who she is supposed to be, she discovers things about herself and others that shake her profoundly. Alina is a lonely character. As an orphan, she was kind of lost and that very early in life, with Mal as her only anchor. When their past in the orphanage is shown bit by bit, it explains their relationship wonderfully and makes is feel very real.
Nevertheless, they are disconnected even before Alina has to join the Grisha, because growing up, Mal is the popular, good-looking and well integrated star-tracker in the army, whereas she is still the rather unremarkable girl tagging along. This increases Alina's feeling of loneliness that is palpable for the reader through Alina's 1st person POV.

When Alina joins the Grisha, sadly her feeling of not belonging doesn't really vanish: her powers were discovered very late in life and compared to the others, she is totally ignorant and lacks any significant knowledge. Her loneliness and her craving the feeling of belonging somewhere, anywhere, explain a lot of her decisions very well, although she knows herself pretty well and tries not to let that motive determine her each and every move. What makes it all harder for her is that the Grisha's palace at times makes the impression of being like a highschool in a YA novel: the popular and not so popular people, the pettiness behind falsely smiling faces and Alina an intruder who doesn't know the rules of the game or what the game is, acutally.

The overall world-building is amazing: high-fantasy not in the usual medieval-european-style, but set in a pre-revoultion-tsaristic-russian/mongolian scenery. And society's problems are comparable as well: a few really rich, a lot very poor, no industrialisation or progress to speak of and a feudal system that hinders changes. But this is where the similarities end, because there is a well thought-out and shown magical system and corresponding magical creatures. And the concept of the Fold, a kind of breach or rip through the country of Ravka, filled with perpetual darkness and horrible monsters, is just remarkable. Like a place of nightmares coming true and becoming permanent and defining the lifes of a whole country and it's neighbours.

The end had me hanging my mouth open and I was so awed: I loved watching Alina excel! Since this is a trilogy's first installment, this first "chapter", so to speak, is closed and satisfyingly so, but more challenges and tasks already loom in the future. And this is such a fabulous YA-high-fantasy, with such wonderfully written world and characters, I sure will follow Alina into her next adventure.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Fantastisches Debut einer außergewöhnlichen Welt!, 27. Dezember 2012
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Rezension bezieht sich auf: Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Book 1) (English Edition) (Kindle Edition)
"Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart." (Synopsis from leighbardugo.com)

Das zentrale Thema dieses Debutromans von Leigh Bardugo ist sicher nicht neu in der Fantasywelt: eine Waise, die keine großen Fähigkeiten aufzuweisen hat und eher schlecht als recht durchs Leben stolpert, entdeckt große magische Kraft in sich und wird plötzlich zum Spielball der Reichen und Mächtigen. Allerdings zieht einen Mr. Bardugo von der ersten Zeile in das Buch hinein. Inspiriert von russischer Folklore und mit klarer, kraftvoller Sprache schafft der Autor eine fantastische Welt, die ihres Gleichen sucht. Die alte Welt der russischen Märchen wird hier lebendig, schon allein in den Bezeichnungen und Namen.
Hier herrscht zwar scheinbar der König über Ravka aber eigentlich ist es der Darkling mit den Grisha hinter sich. Die Grisha können dank ihrer Magie, Fels, Wind, Wasser, Fleisch, Feuer oder eben sogar die Dunkelheit kontrollieren. Doch Alina entpuppt sich als Meisterin des Lichts und ist somit einzigartig. Sie soll der Schlüssel zur Wiedervereinigung von Ravka sein, das durch den „Shadow Fold“ getrennt ist. Aber sie hadert mit ihrem Schicksal, wie es nun einmal bei solchen Helden üblich ist.
Besonders gut gefallen hat mir auch die Figur des Darkling. Wirkt er im einen Moment absolut durchschaubar und böse, ist er bereits im nächsten Moment überraschend undurchdringlich. Genauso vielschichtig wie die Charaktere selbst ist auch die Einordnung in ein bestimmtes Genre. Wer interessiert ist, sollte auch ruhig einen Blick auf die Homepage des Autors werfen. Hier finden sich einige liebevoll gestaltete Informationen zur Welt der Grisha und in Kürze sogar auch ein Quiz, außerdem der Link zu einer Folktale, die kostenlos gelesen werden kann.
Man könnte es als High Fantasy bezeichnen, aber auch YA mit ein wenig Love Story. Hier ist also für Jeden etwas dabei. Ich kann es nur jedem ans Herz legen, der Fantasy auch nur ein wenig abgewinnen kann!
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5.0 von 5 Sternen A dark and original read, set in a winter wonderland of magic and cruelty with an old soul., 5. Januar 2015
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The nation of Ravka is destroyed by monsters and darkness. No one could've guessed that orphan Alina has the power that could destory Ravka's enemies and threats. Suddenly she's seeing herself becoming a part of the Grisha, the magical elite of the kingdom. And in the midst of Ravka's largest battle, Alina's heart is struggeling between her childhood friend Mal and the Darkling, the dangerous leader of the Grisha.
Leigh Bardugo set her story in Ravka, on the territory of today's Russia, whose culture has a big influence on how this story feels. The story's strong features aren't any high tech gadgets, but man power, traditions and elemental magic that hold the reader's attention easily.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about SHADOW AND BONE is darkness. It's a lot about war, fighting for justice and against evil.
But there's time for friendship and love, too. Alina and Mal's is an original love story, one I wouldn't have wanted to be any different. They grew up together and have been friends for as long as they can remember. Now Alina's feelings are changing and you desperately hope that Mal's have, too. Because, honestly ladies, he's a very good catch. Strong and loyal and passionate. You definitely want him at your side when it's time to face off the evil enemies.
It's like they were cut out of the very same fabric. Frayed and a little bit beaten, cut here and there, patched up. They were separated on their journies to become the person they are today. And now sewn together, reunited, they are only stronger than before. They stand for a bond and cloth that can't be torn too easily.
All the while the Darkling is reigning the nation with an iron fist. He holds great power over Alina, too, is even considered a legit love interest. Many, many girls will fall for his dark magic.

5/5 ***** SHADOW AND BONE - A dark and original read, set in a winter wonderland of magic and cruelty with an old soul.

Leigh Bardugo introduces us to a world full of dream-like beauty. Magicians and witches, soldiers and lovers. You practically feel the magic drifting off the pages and filling up your imagination jar. SHADOW AND BONE is fabricated like your classic, old, very skillfully written fairy tale.
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