Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone - 4 STARS (like duh)Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.Those are pretty big words. For a debut novel, it's almost asking for some hurt. Especially since when I read that in the blurb I kept thinking of Gwen Stefani: Love. Angel. Music. Baby.So did it deliver?Well, for the most part anyway."There's nothing wrong with being a mapmaker.""Ofcourse not. And there's nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be a hawk."There's so much hate one can give Alina's character: an orphan who suddenly discovers she has some magical powers and got sent to a school for the Grisha. Uh, do they also have Quidditch? But after finishing this book I really couldn't find any to give. This despite the Mary Sue-ish situations she finds herself in. Technically, when you think about it, it's kind of hard not to come across as a JK Rowling derivative when you incorporate all those details in your book. Setting it in an alternate reality that vaguely resembles early 20th century Russia would sound like a laughable feeble attempt to make it original... but it didn't. It was quite a lovely trip, to be honest.I've read a few reviews griping about the inaccuracies in the "Russian-ness" of this book and I've never been happier being clueless about a subject matter. I know next to nothing about Russian history and I don't think I could've enjoyed this ride if I have. In this case, ignorance really is bliss. The world Leigh Bardugo built made me giddy, reviving some of my childhood fantasies about royal courts, wizards and peasants. It all seems vaguely familiar, a near historical feel that seamlessly fits with the magical. The story was well-paced, almost frenetic, but there's an ease and economy in the author's style that makes it impossible to put down (and leave Buddy Reads, sorry again girls). There's no unnecessary wallowing, no lengthy internal soliloquy from Alina and no painstaking details on what everyone is wearing that you forget what it was the character was thinking of in the first place. Bardugo's going to give you something about the scene but not everything. There's a story to be told, dammit, taking pauses at length to emote about the social strata in and out of Grisha High is wasteful.Not to say that the story lacked any emotion at its core. In fact one of my gripes about it is the feels at the last 20% stretch or roughly everything that happened after Alina escaped Os Alto with Mal. Because everything was going smoothly before the plot twist that led to that spoiler. There's a subtlety that I always yearn for in my YA reads which this executed so well to a point. The characters I'm being introduced to until then were very engaging (a novella about Genya and David? Yes to the hell yes.) and everyone's motives are clear and sound without the usual supposedly amusing quirks.Then Baghra dropped the bomb and everything veered a little off-course.Remember Kirk Lazarus from Tropic Thunder?... when it comes to the drama. For YA-PNRs anyway (bear with me, I just want an RDJ pic in my review). Between Mal and Alina, the hammering of love just got a little too much. Even if Mal has a gift for the mushiest of the mush:"I love you, Alina, even the part of you that loved him."WTF, how do you say no to THAT?Now I do have to admit I am a bit biased towards the hot, megalomaniac who may just have initiated communism in a Russia-like alternate universe (did I just type that?) but really... did we have to have Mal promise Alina to kill her if The Darkling catches them? Kill bambi and have the recurring nightmares? That speech Mal gave to Alina confessing how much he missed her? The last one wasn't that bad (and may actually be a swoontastic moment), I just had a bit too many consecutive eye rolls for a stretch of pages. It just got a little cliched and the bad guy lost a bit of his complexity. And because of all that emotional noise, in contrast, the reveal on Alina's scar fell flat somehow when it was explained. Some technical aspects of certain plot points also gave me pause several times because I couldn't understand how an amplifier really works and how Alina fits in the Darkling's plan. Even after a particularly climactic scene, it still didn't make sense to me.I'm definitely picking up the next book come June and this is a series so there's hope (so MUCH hope) yet for my gripings to be addresed and characters to get actual names. Because "The Darkling" (he sounds like a miniaturized Dark) just puts a serious pause to the fangirling. (and I really REALLY want to fangirl that.)