My discovery of Shadow and Bones is easily one of the best books I’ve ever found by simply wandering the library YA shelves and picking up something that caught my eye. I loved the setting and I loved both the heroine and the villain. With a love that strong, I admit that I had some worry that she wouldn’t be able to keep my interest over a second book.
That was silly of me.
While the book took a slightly different turn than I expected, I really liked the changed. Rare is it in any book where we get to see what it’s like when someone has been turned into a living saint by the masses. The stories of Kvothe’s exploits in Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fears are widely told, but not really believed to be true. Harry Potter is seen as the Boy Who Lived, but the masses turn on him as regularly as they revere him. Here, Alina has been turned into a living saint by the Apparat and it’s honestly rather scary. While I had brushed him off as a minor, if slightly creepy character in the first story, I was pleasantly surprised at how much purpose he’s actually served the story, not only in terms of her deification by also in guiding her in her quest to find the remaining amplifiers and all mostly from a distance.
I also like her struggles with trying to take control of the Second Army. She knows its necessary, but she also knows that she can’t trust almost anyone around her. The author does a fantastic job of conveying that sense of loneliness and otherness that most ruling people must have: surrounded by tons but close to and trusting of few.
I do think the book stumbles some when it comes to the relationship of Alina and Mal. I get that they are childhood friends, and that her not wanting to be separated from him is what was holding her powers back in the first book, but they really seem to have little in common and given how much else she’s thinking very smartly about what she needs to do to save Ravka, she’s not here. And I get that she’s young and all that, but I still find it a distraction and I honestly kind of hope they don’t end up together at the end…though I know that they probably will.
Overall, this is one of those rare YA novels that has a sense of maturity and depth rarely seen in the genre that I think would allow it to gain a following of adult fantasy readers. I rather hope that it does get to that point eventually.
Verdict: Buy it (just so you know, I may have initially borrowed Shadow and Bone but right before the release of this I went out and bought the book to show my support for the author. That is exactly the first time I’ve ever done that)